Only the Heart is a dramatic, exciting, thought-provoking novel co-authored by Brian Caswell and David Phu An Chiem. Told by multiple narrators, Only the Heart is the journey of a family through hope and despair, war and peace, in search of a dream.
The novel opens in 1986 in Sydney Australia, where the Vo family welcomes the arrival of Grandma. The picture then immediately flashes back to the 1970’s when the Vietnam Was has just ended. The Vo family escapes from their hometown on fishing boats that smuggled them through the security of the Communist government. The encounter with the Thai pirates cost the family Mai, mother to Linh and Phuong, sister to Minh. As they arrive illegally on the shores of Malaysia, the family is sent to Pulau Bisa where a refugee camp stood in the middle of the ocean. Then by fate or by will-power, the family is given the chance to come to Australia. Then the time shifts back to 1986 where Toan begins his acting career, while him and Linh both run into trouble with the Triple K, the notorious gang on the streets of Australia.
The story is set mainly in Vietnam and Australia. It also follows a chronological order showing a journey through time, during that time the family migrates from Rach Gia, a port city in the south of Vietnam to Sydney in Australia. The authors chose Vietnam and Australia to be the stage of their novel because David Phu An Chiem himself was a refugee from Vietnam, traveling with his family to Australia to escape the aftermath of the Vietnam War as well as escaping from the Communist government forming. Therefore this novel is also in a sense a semi-autobiography of David Phu An Chiem. Though most actions are placed in chronological order, quite a lot of flashbacks and flash-forwards were used. This is for the effect of mirroring and reflecting the past and the present, creating contrast and illustrating similarities between events.
The character of Toan is rather a replica of David Phu An Chiem...
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