I love Pho’, Vietnamese noodle soup. I mean, I really love it. One of the major downsides of living in Edinburgh is that I haven’t found a good, cheap pho’ place that hits the spot. While I was down in London I was lucky enough to stumble upon Pho Cafe in Soho and it gave me the strength to wade into The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb.
Why did I need to fortify myself with pho’ to read this you ask? The Beauty of Humanity Movement is a lot of things, including an ode to pho’. The story centers on Hung, an itinerant pho maker in Hanoi. Everyday people seek him out with their bowls poised to take in the delicate aroma of his broth. But Hung also holds the secrets to Hanoi’s controversial past. The writers and artists who were persecuted and often sent away for retraining once frequented his shop. Maggie, a Vietnamese-American seeks Hung out to uncover part of her father’s life which she knew nothing about.
Gibb’s writing, as always, is poetic and evocative. She tends to write about far away places, which is something I enjoy. What is truly remarkable about The Beauty of Humanity Movement is the way in which she captures the essence of Vietnamese street culture. She is not writing about the elite, but instead of people who work hard and suffer. In other words, she very realistically captures a world about she has very little first hand experience.
Who would like this book? Gibb is a Canadian writer and as such has many Canadian fans. Some were put off by the controversial subject of female genital mutilation dealt with in her previous book Sweetness in the Belly. It is safe to say that The Beauty of Humanity Movement trends on much less controversial ground while still bringing to light the struggles of the Vietnamese population twenty five years after the end of the Vietnam conflict. And of course, it is a must read for anyone heading to Vietnam or obsessed with pho’.
This book was read as one of my selections for the TBR List Challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader.