Book Review – WAVE by Hoa Pham

Wave by Hoa PhamWave Synopsis :

I remember how you were,
not how you are. We were we
until we became you and I.

Midori and Âu Cô are international university students tasting freedom from family for the first time. They discover Melbourne and each other. All is well until the tsunami that swamps their world…

We were we until you made us me and you…

Midori and Âu Cô are international university students in Melbourne. They play at being silver dragons birthing pearls from their mouths. They are united by loneliness. Midori’s parents are killed by the tsunami in Fukushima and soon after Midori and Âu Cô witness a university shooting. Midori ends up in a psychiatric hospital, not able to cope with the double blow.

Âu Cô is courted by a Vietnamese-Australian boy (Dzung) who has also survived the shooting. Dzung is unaware of Midori and Âu Cô’s relationship and pressured by his parents asks Au Co to marry him. Midori is silenced and unable to out herself and Âu Cô she understands too well the pressures of family. Âu Cô accepts since her own family wants to migrate to Australia. Midori absconds before the wedding to the Blue Mountains. She suicides close to the Three Sisters. Âu Cô is left to work through her guilt. She falls pregnant to Dzung and after she gives birth she looks closely at his skin. The little baby has silver dragon scales running down his neck.

(Spinifex Press)


What first struck me about this title is the unusual amount of detail provided within the publisher synopsis. It is almost unheard of to tell readers a story’s conclusion. Why have they done this?

While the plot is harrowing, Hoa Pham’s Wave is very much character driven. In fact the real story being told is how the different characters respond to the events that occur, rather than the events themselves.

Through alternating viewpoints Pham presents different ways each character responds to and processes information; how they weigh up competing priorities (their own happiness versus that of others) and rationalize their actions. Some concentration is required, as although each vignette’s narrative viewpoint is marked by a character name, the brevity of some passages and oblique references to other characters left me momentarily confused.

There is an affecting directness in Pham’s prose – stripped bare almost but at the same time lyrical. Great pathos is clear from the opening line:

Inside it was warm like greenhouse flowers. Outside it was the end of the world.

There are no heroes or villains  in this short novel. Wave’s message is both a fight for change, and a message of compassion and acceptance of an individuals choices, whatever they may be. External forces impact everyone’s lives and all anyone can be expected to do is make the best of the situation they find themselves in.

Ultimately, we alone are responsible for our own happiness.

BOOK RATING: The Story 3 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5

Wave by Hoa Pham
Available from:
Spinifex Press

Genre: Literature, Drama, Romance

This review counts towards my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2015, the 2015 Australian Women Writers Challenge and The Eclectic Reader Challenge 2015 (Diversity).

Author Information: 

Hoa Pham author of WaveMelbourne resident Hoa Pham is the author of six books and is a psychologist in the day time. Vixen was awarded the Best Young Writer award by the Sydney Morning Herald, and The Other Shore won the Viva La Novella Prize. Her play Silence was on the VCE Drama list in 2010.

She is also the founder of Peril Magazine an Asian-Australian online arts and culture magazine. Hoa has received funding from the Australia Council of the Arts numerous times. She has been on an Asialink residency in Vietnam, and fellowships at the Tyrone Guthrie centre and the Goethe Institute Berlin. She has completed her doctorate in creative arts and also holds master degrees in creative writing and psychology.

Find out more at her website.

* My receiving a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions in the review above.

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