Dogs at the Perimeter by Madeleine Thien

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Such are Thien’s gifts that she can write lyrically about horror without stripping it of force. When bombs fall on Phnom Penh, Janie registers her brother’s screaming as “a wide emptiness, a pressure in the air blinding me, and in the darkness I hear a strange, familiar ticking — insects, the typewriter, a clock counting time.”
-NY Times

Synopsis

 “Remember this night,” he said. “Mark it in your memories because tomorrow everything changes.”
 
One starless night, a girl’s childhood was swept away by the terrors of the Khmer Rouge. Exiled from the city, she and her family were forced to live out in the open under constant surveillance. Each night, people were taken away. Caught up in a political storm which brought starvation to millions, tore families apart, and changed the world forever, she lost everyone she loved.
 
Three decades later, Janie’s life in Montreal is unravelling. Haunted by her past, she has abandoned her husband and son and taken refuge in the home of her friend, the brilliant, troubled scientist, Hiroji Matsui. In 1970, Hiroji’s brother, James, travelled to Cambodia and fell in love. Five years later, the Khmer Rouge came to power, and James vanished. Brought together by the losses they endured, Janie and Hiroji had found solace in each another. And then, one strange day, Hiroji disappeared.
 
Engulfed by the memories she thought she had fled, Janie must struggle to find grace in a world overshadowed by the sorrows of her past.
 
Beautifully realized, deeply affecting, Dogs at the Perimeter evokes totalitarianism through the eyes of a little girl and draws a remarkable map of the mind’s battle with memory, loss, and the horrors of war. It confirms Madeleine Thien as one of the most gifted and powerful novelists writing today.

 

About Madeleine Thien

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Madeleine Thien is the author of two previous books of fiction, Simple Recipes, a collection of stories, and Certainty, a novel. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Granta, The Walrus, Five Dials, Brick, and the Asia Literary Review, and her work has been translated into more than sixteen languages. In 2010, she received the Ovid Festival Prize, awarded each year to an international writer of promise. She lives in Montreal.From the Hardcover edition.
 
Published May 3, 2011 by McClelland & Stewart. 264 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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NY Times

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Reviewed by Ligaya Mishan on Jan 19 2018

Such are Thien’s gifts that she can write lyrically about horror without stripping it of force. When bombs fall on Phnom Penh, Janie registers her brother’s screaming as “a wide emptiness, a pressure in the air blinding me, and in the darkness I hear a strange, familiar ticking — insects, the typewriter, a clock counting time.”

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