The Mountains Sing

Pages: 352
Imprint: Oneworld

The Mountains Sing

Nguyen Phan Que Mai

A sweeping, evocative family saga set against the backdrop of twentieth-century Viet Nam
9781786079220 (2 Jul 2020)
RRP £14.99

The Book

'An epic account of Viet Nam's painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling... Moving and riveting.' Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prizewinning author of The Sympathizer

Born in 1920, Tran Dieu Lan's family lost everything after the Communist government came to power in North Viet Nam. Forced to flee with her six children, she knows she must do whatever it takes to keep her family together.

Many years later, her country is again at war, and her young granddaughter Huong watches her parents disappear down the Ho Chi Minh Trail to fight.

Vivid, compelling and deeply moving, The Mountains Sing brings to life the true human cost of a devastating war, and the improbable power of hope to sustain us when all seems lost. With echoes of Homegoing and Pachinko, this is a standout new novel from a celebrated Vietnamese poet.

Additional Information

Pages 352
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Born in Viet Nam in 1973, Nguyen Phan Que Mai grew up witnessing the war's devastation on her country. She worked as a street seller and rice farmer before winning a scholarship to attend university in Australia. She is the author of eight books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction published in Vietnamese, and her writing has been translated and published in more than 10 countries, most recently in Norton's Inheriting the War anthology. Her work has received the Ha Noi Writers Association 'Poetry of the Year' Award (2010). She currently lives with her family in Jakarta.


'The Mountains Sing is a triumph, a novelistic rendition of one of the most difficult times in recent Vietnamese history, the land reform of the north. A touchy subject that Que Mai handles gracefully and movingly...both vast in scope and intimate in its telling.'

- Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prizewinning author of The Sympathizer

'Expansive in scope and feeling, The Mountains Sing is a feat of hope, an unflinchingly felt inquiry into the past, with the courageous storytelling of the present.'

- Ocean Vuong, author of On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

'A sweeping tale of one family's shifting fortunes in Vietnam across half a century... Invitingly and gracefully told... A richly imagined story of severed bonds amid conflict.'

- Kirkus, starred review

'[A] lyrical, sweeping debut novel... Nguyen brilliantly explores the boundary between what a writer shares with the world and what remains between family. This brilliant, unsparing love letter to Vietnam will move readers.'

- Publishers Weekly, starred review

'An engrossing story of family, adversity, war, loss, and triumph . . . Recalling Min Jin Lee and Lisa See, Nguyen displays a lush and captivating storyteller's gift as she effortlessly transports readers to another world, leaving them wishing for more.'

- Library Journal, starred review

'Widely published in Vietnamese, poet, nonfiction writer, and translator Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai's first novel in English balances the unrelenting devastation of war with redemptive moments of surprising humanity.'

- Booklist

'Nguyen Phan Que Mai's sweeping tale proves on every page that despite war-time tragedies and numbing ugliness, the human desire to forgive and thrive soars as high as the mountains.'

- Thanhha Lai, National Book Award-winning author of Inside Out and Back Again

'Good literature frees us from being trapped in our own skins by allowing us to identify with characters and see the world through their eyes. Reading this novel, I was moved by Nguyen Phan Que Mai's beautiful, even poetic, depictions of enduring courage. I came away with a deeper understanding of the war in which I fought.'

- Karl Marlantes, bestselling author of Matterhorn and Deep River

'Que Mai tells the story of the war that tore apart Viet Nam, and of the generation lost to the war, by braiding around it two beautiful strands told by the older and younger generations of a family. This book is an act of love, compassion, and ultimately healing.'

- Thi Bui, author of The Best We Could Do

'Nguyen Phan Que Mai has written a wonderful, intricate story of the lives of a Vietnamese family trying to make it through generations of war. The Mountains Sing is a beautiful story of the simple challenge of keeping a family together and the courage of perseverance. It is told with the sureness of a master storyteller with a poet's spirit... Marvellous to read.'

- Larry Heinemann, National Book Award-winning author of Paco's Story

'A poignant English debut - a gripping portrait of Việt Nam folded between a generational tale of love, loss, and above all else, the will to survive. Honest, alluring and hopeful, The Mountains Sing is a stunning work of historical fiction that lays bare history long forgotten; an essential novel for readers looking to uncover the truth of Việt Nam.'

- Paperback Paris

'In this moving family saga, author Que Mai gives us a rare glimpse into the lives of ordinary North Vietnamese as they struggle to survive the calamities that descend over their country - from the Japanese occupation during World War II, to the harsh and ideological rule of the communists, to the American bombing of the North, and to the shocks and aftershocks of the Vietnam War. It is a story of loss and sorrow, of longing for peace and normalcy, and—above all—of the triumph of hope over despair, told in the authentic voices of a resilient and resourceful grandmother and her granddaughter.'

- Mai Elliott, author of The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family

'In The Mountains Sing, Nguyen Phan Que Mai has found a true and clear voice in English that is rich and compelling the way only those who come to English as a second language can sometimes manage.'

- Bruce Weigl, author of bestselling memoir The Circle of Hanh

'A vast, epic historical novel set against the backdrop of the Việt Nam conflict through the eyes of the people themselves.' 

- Ms. Magazine