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The Beauty of Humanity Movement    by Camilla Gibb order for
Beauty of Humanity Movement
by Camilla Gibb
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday Canada, 2010 (2010)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Michael Graves

This book is a delight to read, its story as charming as the title, The Beauty of Humanity Movement. The book centers around Old Man Hung who has endured both pre and post revolutionary Vietnam. Hung 'makes the best pho in the city (Hanoi) and has done for decades'. Everybody in Vietnam eats pho (noodle soup). However, in Hanoi customers know which pho is superior, which one is carefully prepared using ancient recipes, not like the water downed versions of the south (Saigon).

The Beauty of Humanity movement was a group of dissident artists who in earlier days often displayed their work in Hung's café. Their art was deemed politically unsuitable and most was destroyed, as were the artists themselves. Hung survived, but in present day Hanoi is left to sell his soup from a cart that frequently changes location to avoid the bribes one 'must pay to the police in this new era of freedom'.

Margaret arrives from the United States in an effort to learn about her father, who was one of the dissident artists. Hung has great difficulty recollecting the past and is little help in Margaret's quest. But slowly the past is revealed, which although fictionalized, is a wonderful depiction of conditions in Vietnam, and particularly Hanoi, in the 1980s.

The characters in the novel are brilliantly depicted and feel very true to the time and cultural variations of Vietnam. Camilla Gibb has researched Vietnam history and conditions in depth to make this a very authentic narrative. The last paragraph of the book is delightful as it encapsulates all the happy endings one could wish for.

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