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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > April 2016 > The restless kind

The restless kind

In a collection of stories and a new novel, Yasuko Thanh harnesses a wandering spirit and an inner strength

Some writers are easy to get a bead on: they maintain consistent personas in person and in their work, and return to stock subjects and situations across different books with a uniform voice and point of view.

Then there are writers like Yasuko Thanh.

After only two books – the 2012 short-story collection Floating Like the Dead (McClelland & Stewart) and her debut novel, Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains, out this April with Hamish Hamilton Canada – Thanh has proven to be a remarkably protean wordsmith, shifting from one subject and setting to another with startling confidence.


“Spring-Blade Knife,” which opens Thanh’s collection and won the author an Arthur Ellis Award, is set in Vancouver in 1948, on the night before a death-row convict is due to hang. The story “Hunting in Spanish” features an idealistic woman who travels to Mexico to work in an orphanage but ends up selling opium with her would-be boyfriend. And “Floating Like the Dead,” which won the 2009 Writers’ Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize, is about a group of Chinese lepers exiled to a colony off the coast of British Columbia in the 1920s. Each story is equally well realized, with a feeling of authenticity embedded in the richness of the details and the luxuriousness of the prose.

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About Quill & Quire

YASUKO THANH brings a wandering spirit to her debut novel.