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The Sweetest Fruits

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The Sweetest Fruits by Monique Truong is the imagined story of three women who were all attached to Greek-Irish writer Patrick Lafcadio Hearn.  Ms. Truong came to the US as a refugee from Vietnam, and is an award winning, bestselling author.

The novel is divided into three parts, three women talking about their relationship to Lafcadio Hearn. The first is his mother, a Greek woman who married an Irish officer in the British Army to get out of her father’s house. She followed her husband to Ireland, only to be forced to leave him.

The second, a former slave, an African-American woman from a Kentucky plantation. Making her way to Cincinnati after the Civil war working at a boarding house cook. At the boarding house she meets, and marries Hearn who is trying to make his name as a reporter.

The third, a Japanese woman named Matsue who got married to the new English teacher… Mr. Hearn. Matsue, a samurai’s daughter, gives birth to four children and collaborates with Hearn in his literary ventures.

I knew nothing about Patrick Lafcadio Hearn, I actually only found out he was a real person after finishing to read this book. The Sweetest Fruits by Monique Truong is the author’s attempt to tell the readers about the Greek-Irish writer through the women who knew him throughout his life, through their words, acts, and deeds.

The book has its ups and downs, the last third took a bit of concentration and perseverance, but overall I though that the writing was witty, and the narrative sharp. The author does not shy away from showing the humanity and flaws in the women who tell the story, as well as Mr. Hearn who had a tremendous impact on each one of their lives.

I almost skipped this book because the synopsis made it seem like it would be a history of one of those “great men” no-one had heard about. Instead we get different view points of what made Mr. Hearn’s voice so memorable to his fans, through tales from the women who fell by the wayside, but have had as much an impact on the writer as he had on himself.

What I thought was remarkable is that the author did not make Mr. Hearn the villain, nor the antagonist even though the story is told through the eyes of the women who loved him, the ones he loved back, and did wrong during his life. The author simply implies that due to childhood disability and dark skin he can relate to people who were marginalized at the time, and some are still marginalized today.

Frankly, I had no sympathy for Hearn, I am not familiar with his work and – even though I don’t think it was the author’s intention – he comes off as a jerk, arrogant, and even cruel. Even though Mr. Hearn is the focus of the book, the women telling it, survivors one and all, are the ones to give the reader insight.
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A terrific book by a writer who thrives in oblique relation to writers and other cultural figures. This refracted portrait of Lafcadio Hearn, composed by the three significant women in his life, is a sensitive, revelatory assembly of cultural identity, feminist insight, social reconstruction and wry psychology, often voiced by the illiterate. Starting with a badly- treated mother, via a half-acknowledged Black wife, to a Japanese second wife, Truong has given life to three distinctive voices and places, while Hearn’s own character - warts and all -  lingers just off-stage.
A clever and impressive work of bio-fiction.
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Let's talk about creative responsibility in historical fiction.
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I got 2/3 of the way through The Sweetest Fruits by Monique Truong. I had to put it down and step away.
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This book tells the life of Patrick Hearn, a Greek-Irish traveler and author in the 18th century, through the eyes of his mother (Greek), first wife Alathea (emancipated Black woman), and second wife Setsu (Japanese). Monique Truong is Vietnamese-American. Her sentences are beautiful and she is poetic in her descriptions of place.
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However.
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2 of the 3 narrators were illiterate. Only 1 of them had trouble with "big words", was out to get something (monetary) out of the "interview", and told an irrelevant side story about how good and noble the police were.
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This novel suffered dramatically because Truong decided to take on the mantle of telling a Black woman's perspective without asking herself if she could or should. I don't know Truong, but her implicit biases - and those of her editors - made it into the final copy, and it shows. When own voices books get a minuscule marketing budget but a book like this gets a rebrand and a reprint, something's not right.
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Beside this, the rotating P.O.V was confusing. The book took on too much, and was not successful or clear in its goal of showing one man through the eyes of three women. It also was frustrating because I was expecting to get more of the life of each woman out of them, but I'm guessing there wasn't enough research material for them and so the author didn't dive too deep. It was a frustrating read overall.
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Literary fiction at its best.Three women love one man a mesmerizing haunting read.So imaginative so involving.A book I could not put down .I will be recommending this book to all readers who love a multilayered Creative read,#netgalley#penguinbooks
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This authornis a very strong writer! Enjoy reading different settings in her story. Her usage of words are powerful! I would recommend this book to others!!
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