It is Hanoï in 1954 and the war in Indochina is raging. Mai, a young Annamese girl, falls in love with an exiled French soldier from Brittany.
A border in a Catholic convent, Mai looks after wounded French soldiers. It is there that she meets Yann, shortly after he turns 18 years old. To prevent him from being sent back to the front, the young girl uses all possible subterfuges. Her behaviour stirs the attention and curiosity of the soldier.
The day of the festival of Têt (New Year), Mai refuses to marry the man that her father, a prominent judge, has chosen for her. Her stubborness puts her beyond the pale of her family . Mai and Yann marry in haste on the edge of a beautiful lake, the day before Yann returns to the front.
Hoai Huong Nguyen reveals the horror, the Dien Bien Phu hills, heaven-on-earth turned into a mass grave where Yann is fighting. In Hanoï, Mai will go to hell and back to save Yann.
This is a striking first novel which revisits the greatest myths of Eastern and Western cultures. A true and deeply human story, void of caricature. It is written in a language of suggestion, and set with delicate haikus.
Marianne Payot, L’Express
“Against the backdrop of the war in Indochina: an impossible love. Hoai Huong Nguyen makes a spectacular entrance onto the literary stage.”
Le Figaro Littéraire
« The shadow of pure literature. »
Jean-Christophe Buisson, Le Figaro Magazine
« On a weft a thousand times wound, with the subtlety of a silk weaver, she unfolds the treasures of the poetic imagination to tell the most tragic of stories. A gentle violence emanates from her text capturing the reader’s attention from beginning to end. »
Jeanne de Ménibus, ELLE
« These ‘Soft Shadows’ are enclosed within a devastating and strangely tranquil beauty ; the spectacle of nature brought about by Hoai Huong Nguyen as she renders shifting patterns of beauty through poetry is staggering, and the notion that such powerful feelings may be kindled from within our tiny lives is appeasing. »