The metro shudders to a halt: an unattended bag has been found, and terrorism is suspected. For the narrator, a young Vietnamese woman teaching English in the Parisian suburbs, time stops. Her son falls asleep on her shoulder and a long interior monologue begins, looking back over her life thus far.
From a constrained childhood in post-communist Hanoi, to a period of study in ’80’s Russia, she tries to understand everything that has brought her to this point. Through it all runs her passion for Thuy, a writer who lives in Saigon’s Chinatown, and who she has not seen for eleven years.
Interspersed with extracts from Thuy’s novel, the narrator’s monologue is an attempt, at once desperate, humorous, and self-deprecating, to fix the past once and for all and exorcise the passion that haunts her.
Winner of an English PEN Award‘Chinatown is a fever dream, a hallucination, a loop in time and life that Thuân masterfully deploys to capture the disorienting and debilitating effects of migration, racism, and a broken heart in both Vietnam and France. I was completely immersed in this spellbinding novel’ – Viet Thanh Nguyen.