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The Mountains Sing

Runner-up for the 2021 Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai


Winner of the 2021 International Book Awards

Winner of the 2021 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award

Winner of the 2020 Lannan Literary Award Fellowship for Fiction

Winner of the Blogger’s Book Prize, 2021 * Shortlisted for the People’s Book Prize, 2021

‘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 Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer 

Selected as a Best Book of 2020 by NB Magazine * BookBrowse * Buzz Magazine * NPR * Washington Independent Review of Books * Real Simple * She Reads * A Hindu’s View * Thoughts from a Page

One family, two generations of women and a war that will change their lives forever

Ha Noi, 1972. Hương and her grandmother, Trần Diệu Lan, cling to one another in their improvised shelter as American bombs fall around them. For Trần Diệu Lan, forced to flee the family farm with her six children decades earlier as the Communist government rose to power in the North, this experience is horribly familiar. Seen through the eyes of these two unforgettable women, The Mountains Sing captures their defiance and determination, hope and unexpected joy. 

Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Việt Nam, celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyễn’s richly lyrical debut weaves between the lives of a grandmother and granddaughter to paint a unique picture of a country pushed to breaking point, and a family who refuse to give up.

‘Devastating… From the French and Japanese occupations to the Indochina wars, The Great Hunger, land reform and the Vietnam War, it’s a story of resilience, determination, family and hope in a country blighted by pain.’ Refinery29

  • Publication date: July 1, 2021
  • ISBN: 9780861540136
  • RRP: £8.99
  • Pages: 352
  • Publication date: August 20, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781786079220
  • RRP: £14.99
  • Pages: 352
  • Publication date: August 20, 2020
  • ISBN: 9781786079237
  • RRP: £4.99
  • Pages: 352


'Inspired by the experiences of [Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s] own family, and backed up by extensive research, it's a testament to their endurance; a harrowing novel which finds hope in the author's faith in reconciliation and understanding.'

Herald, Glasgow

'[An] absorbing, stirring novel... Que Mai contains her saga with a poet's discipline, crafting spare and unsparing sentences, and uplifts it with a poet's antenna for beauty in the most desolate circumstances. She evokes the landscape hauntingly, as a site of loss so profound it assumes the quality of fable.' 

New York Times Book Review

'A sweeping story that positions Vietnamese life within the rich and luminous history of national epics like The Tale of Kiều and The Iliad. 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

'The Mountains Sing is an epic account of Việt Nam’s painful 20th century history, both vast in scope and intimate in its telling. Through the travails of one family, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai brings us close to the horrors of famine, war, and class struggle. But in this moving and riveting novel, she also shows us a post-war Việt Nam, a country of hope and renewal, home to a people who have never given up.'

Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prizewinning author of The Sympathizer

'A Vietnamese poet conjures history and fate in a luminous tale that resonates across generations as one family grapples with the psychic residue of war.'

O, The Oprah Magazine

'A luminous, complex family narrative... Que Mai [has] an astute and graceful ability to sustain contradictory truths about war, displacement, aesthetic representations, and human nature... The Mountains Sing affirms the individual’s right to think, read, and act according to a code of intuitive civility, borne out of Vietnam's fertile and compassionate cultural heritage.'


'A sweeping saga... Alternating between lyricism and blunt reality, Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai gives us a vivid look at Vietnam from within.'

People Magazine

'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

'A mesmerizing, devastating, searing and utterly authentic and deeply human novel. Cannot recommend highly enough!'

Lynn Novick, co-producer of The Vietnam War documentary

'Lyrical, wrenching, sometimes painful to read, but ultimately glorious in affirming the resilience of the human spirit. In these traumatic times in which we are facing hard times as a global community as well as a nation, it is life-affirming to be reminded that many in our human family have endured difficult histories before and come through with kindness, kindredness, love, hope, and wonderful novels that will make your heart — as well as the mountains — sing!'

Julia Alvarez, author of Afterlife

'Devastating… From the French and Japanese occupations to the Indochina wars, The Great Hunger, land reform and the Vietnam War, it’s a story of resilience, determination, family and hope in a country blighted by pain.'

Refinery29, 'Best New Books, August 2020'

'A glorious novel which sweeps across land, generations and hearts... A rare gem that I will never forget.'

The Write Review

Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

Dr Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai is an award-winning Vietnamese poet and novelist. She is the author of eleven books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction. Her books in Vietnamese have received the 2010 Poetry of the Year Award from the Hanoi Writers Association, the Capital’s Literature & Arts Award, and First Prize in the Poetry Competition celebrating 1,000 Years of Hanoi. Her debut novel and first book in English, The Mountains Sing, is an International Bestseller, runner-up in the 2021 Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Winner of the 2020 BookBrowse Best Debut Award, Winner of the Blogger’s Book Prize 2021, Winner of the 2021 International Book Awards, Winner of the 2021 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award, and Winner of the 2020 Lannan Literary Award Fellowship for “a work of exceptional quality” and for “contribution to peace and reconciliation”. For more information, visit:

Author page

More books by Nguyễn Phan Quế Mai

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