Plot summary: Vietnam is a haunted country, and Dr. Nguyen Georges-Minh is a haunted man. In 1908, the French rule Saigon, but uneasily; dissent whispers through the corridors of the city. Each day, more Vietnamese rebels are paraded through the streets towards the blade of the guillotine, now a permanent fixture in the main square and a gruesome warning to those who would attempt to challenge colonial rule. It is a warning that Georges-Minh will not heed. A Vietnamese national and Paris-educated physician, he is obsessed by guilt over his material wealth and nurses a secret loathing for the French connections that have made him rich, even as they have torn his beloved country apart. With a close-knit group of his friends calling themselves the Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains, Georges-Minh plots revenge on the French for the savagery they have shown to the Vietnamese. And it falls to Georges-Minh to create a poison to mix into the Christmas dinner of a garrison of French soldiers. It is an act that will send an unmistakable message to the French: Get out of Vietnam. But the assassination attempt goes horribly wrong. Forced to flee into the deep jungles of the outer provinces, Georges-Minh must care for his infant son, manage the growing madness of his wife, and elude capture by the hill tribes and the small--but lethal--pockets of French sympathizers.
The jury wrote the following: “With compelling narrative drive, Yasuko Thanh imbues Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains with atmosphere and resonance, and creates mesmerizing characters who undergo complex change — politically, socially, personally, sexually — as they are gathered into a vortex of intrigue and risk. The author is as fearless and as wise in reshaping the mystique of the revolutionary as she is in delineating a dramatic time and place in this elegant and tantalizing novel" (http://www.writerstrust.com/Awards/Rogers-Writers--Trust-Fiction-Prize.aspx).
For summaries of the five novels chosen as finalists, go to http://schatjesshelves.blogspot.ca/2016/09/rogers-writers-trust-fiction-prize.html.
The Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, celebrating its 20th year and sponsored by Rogers Communications Inc., recognizes Canadian writers for the year’s best novel or short-story collection as selected by a three-member, independent judging panel. Thanh will receive $25,000.
For more information about the winners in all the categories, check out http://www.writerstrust.com/News/Events-(1)/Writers--Trust-Awards.aspx.