On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous (paperback)

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The New York Times bestselling debut novel from the prize-winning prodigy

** The Sunday Times and New York Times Bestseller **

Brilliant, heartbreaking and highly original, Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is a shattering portrait of a family, and a testament to the redemptive power of storytelling.

This is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born. It tells of Vietnam, of the lasting impact of war, and of his family’s struggle to forge a new future. And it serves as a doorway into parts of Little Dog’s life his mother has never known – episodes of bewilderment, fear and passion – all the while moving closer to an unforgettable revelation.

Author: Ocean Vuong

Paperback  Published 15 September 2020  256 pages


A masterpiece’ 

‘Luminous, shattering, urgent, necessary’ 

‘Deeply moving… Little Dog’s story is the story of modern America’ 
Daily Telegraph

‘Vuong has originality running through his veins’
The Times

Recommended and Reviewed by Noel

''This is a heartbreakingly beautiful book, written in prose that shimmers with a highly poetic sensibility, full of resonances, motifs and imagery. The first novel by multi-prize-winning poet Ocean Vuong, it tells of Little Dog, a young Vietnamese immigrant in America, who writes a letter to his mother Rose, still suffering from post-traumatic stress after the American War (as the Vietnamese call it), telling her about his pain, love, aspirations and sexuality – a letter she cannot even read with her non-existent English vocabulary. 

This is a novel of memory, recovery, naming, creation and re-creation, as Little Dog tries to understand his own sense of otherness and belonging. Whether in relation to his family, country, lover, or self, he is trying to find his own voice and create an identity, with all the confusing intersections of being Asian in America, or being queer and Asian. But this isn’t examined in a purely cerebral way - the images are vivid and evocative, the language sensuous and muscular, and the sex exciting and revealing! The countless little acts of intimacy between Little Dog and his mother and grandmother – feeding, grooming, comforting - build up like a mosaic to reveal a larger picture of love and nurturing, even amidst hurt and dysfunction. With Trevor, the boy he smokes, shares drugs and has sex with, and comes to love, there is a yearning tenderness mixed with need and desire. 

A mix of poem and novel, with spaces to breathe and wonder, Vuong’s writing is suffused with mono no aware (literally "the pathos of things"), a Japanese term for the exquisite sadness inspired by the ephemeral nature of beauty. This seems to echo in the title of the book (and a look at the author photo suggests he is suffused with it too!)''

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