Review: Wandering Souls, Cecile Pin

An extraordinary and heartbreaking debut novel about the bonds that connect people even when separated by seas or death itself.

There are the goodbyes and then the fishing out of the bodies – everything in between is speculation.

One night, not long after the last American troops leave Vietnam, siblings Anh, Thanh and Minh flee their village and embark on a perilous boat journey to Hong Kong. Their parents and four younger siblings make the crossing in another vessel but as weeks go by it becomes clear that only one party has survived the voyage.

Anh, Thanh and Minh suddenly find themselves alone in the world, without family or home. They travel on, navigating refugee camps and resettlement centres until, by a twist of fate, they arrive in Thatcher’s Britain. Here they must somehow build new lives with only each other to turn to, but will that be enough in a place that doesn’t seem to want them?

In this piercing debut, the siblings’ faltering journey is deftly interwoven with the voice of their lost younger brother, Dao, following them from a place between the living and the dead, and the records of an unknown researcher intent on gathering the strands of their story. Revelatory and inventive, Wandering Souls paints a heart-wrenching portrait of a family in unimaginable adversity while exploring the healing power of stories.


And there it is, my fourth five-star read of the year. This book is heartbreaking and yet, it also manages to be full of hope. While this book tells the stories of Vietnamese refugees, the meanings, lessons and learnings are far-reaching. There is global refugee crisis and this book might go some way towards helping combat some of the misconceptions that tend to surrond the terms that dominate such conversations. The characters in this book feel incredibly real and it made me want to learn more about the Vietnam war. I can’t say enough about this book because it was utterly incredible. Well worth a read. 

Kay Page