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The Book of Salt
by Monique Truong | Literature & Fiction
Registered by wingolagoriewing of Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg Germany on 2/7/2012
Average 5 star rating by BookCrossing Members 

status (set by olagorie): reserved

1 journaler for this copy...

Journal Entry 1 by wingolagoriewing from Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg Germany on Tuesday, February 07, 2012

5 out of 10

The Book of Salt serves up a wholly original take on Paris in the 1930s through the eyes of Binh, the Vietnamese cook employed by Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. Viewing his famous mesdames and their entourage from the kitchen of their rue de Fleurus home, Binh observes their domestic entanglements while seeking his own place in the world.

Binh is Vietnamese, gay, not fluent in French, not upper-class, not rich, not well-educated; he is the colonized in the land of the colonizer–an outsider in a way that Stein and Toklas, for all their unconventionality, can never quite understand. In Paris, Binh’s identity is reduced to his skin; he is “an Indochinese labourer, generalized and indiscriminate, easily spotted and readily identifiable all the same.” The French do not care if he is from Vietnam or Cambodia or Laos, for all these countries belong to France, to “the same Monsieur and Madame”. Binh longs to be back in Saigon, where he was, “above all, just a man”, where he would not be perpetually Othered.

In a mesmerizing tale of yearning and betrayal, Monique Truong explores the city from the salons of its artists to the dark nightlife of its outsiders and exiles. She takes us back to Binh's youthful servitude in Saigon under colonial rule, to his life as a galley hand at sea, to his brief, fateful encounters in Paris with Paul Robeson and the young Ho Chi Minh. (Publishers description)

Monique Truong was born in Saigon and now lives in New York City.

Counts for Vietnam.

I bought this book in Hanoi and started to read it on my way back from Da Nang.

I rather liked this book because the language is written elegantly, I liked the references to cooking and how Binh describes the way The French think and act. But I think the descriptions are too much and often too superficial, I would have liked to learn more about Gertrude Stein and the daily life in Saigon. Also I wasn't able to start to like the main character, Binh, much.

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