Review Blog

Jul 30 2008

Noodle Pie by Ruth Starke

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[Sound recording] Read by Stephen Pease. Louis Braille Audio , 2008. (4 hrs 30 mins)
ISBN 97817425120348 4 CDs $52
Ruth Starke's brilliantly evocative story of a returning Vietnamese refugee, is brought satisfyingly to life in this wonderful recording by Louis Braille Audio.
On the plane to Hanoi, Andy hears some of the stories about his father's escape from Vietnam many years before. Looking out to sea, he cannot understand how his father was able to do something so scary, and he realises how worried his father is as they get closer to the land of his birth.

Subtly Starke underscores the differences between Australia and Vietnam, as she reveals through the simplest things, the strangeness of the country to which Andy is going. From the instructions on the plane, to the stories Andy's father tells him, to the jewelry his father has bought, the first chapters reveal the disparity between the lifestyles of the two sections of the family.  Through Andy's eyes the reader sees Vietnam from an Australian point of view, and as his eyes become more attuned to things Vietnamese, the reader too, is drawn into the rituals and customs of this very different way of life.

Andy makes many mistakes. He sees the family restaurant through the Australian stress on hygiene and health rules, he sees the family's treatment of his cousin Minh, as despotic and cruel, he sees the traffic as rule-less and chaotic, but he learns anew that things cannot be taken at face value. Taken aback at the new suit his father wears, his expensive watch and talk of his business, Andy cannot reconcile the view the family has of his father and what he really is. He learns too, that there is more to his father's story than the one he has been told in the past.

Stephen Pease's reading is just right. He is able to replicate the accent of a Vietnamese person speaking English or VietEnglish or Vietnamese. The father's accent is very clear, and his fear on the plane, palpable. Pease differentiates seamlessly between each of the members of the Vietnamese family, from the grandmother, to the aunt and uncle, cousins and children. Complementing this appealing multicultural story, the reading is evocative of the nuances of life and living for this sprawling family, and their joy at meeting again. The recording recreates the story admirably, adding a subtle knowledge of the words and phrases which I skimmed over on reading, but were made clear from the audio version.
Fran Knight

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