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4.5 of 5
3 ratings
list price: $21
also available: Paperback Hardcover
category: Fiction
published: May 2012

Dogs at the Perimeter

by Madeleine Thien

reviews: 1
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4.5 of 5
3 ratings
list price: $21
also available: Paperback Hardcover
category: Fiction
published: May 2012

 “Remember this night,” he said. “Mark it in your memories because tomorrow everything changes.”
One starless night, a girl’s childhood was swept away by the terrors of the Khmer Rouge. Exiled from the city, she and her family were forced to live out in the open under constant surveillance. Each night, people were taken away. Caught up in a political storm which brought starvation to millions, tore families apart, and changed the world forever, she lost everyone she loved.
Three decades later, Janie’s life in Montreal is unravelling. Haunted by her past, she has abandoned her husband and son and taken refuge in the home of her friend, the brilliant, troubled scientist, Hiroji Matsui. In 1970, Hiroji’s brother, James, travelled to Cambodia and fell in love. Five years later, the Khmer Rouge came to power, and James vanished. Brought together by the losses they endured, Janie and Hiroji had found solace in each another. And then, one strange day, Hiroji disappeared.
Engulfed by the memories she thought she had fled, Janie must struggle to find grace in a world overshadowed by the sorrows of her past.
Beautifully realized, deeply affecting, Dogs at the Perimeter evokes totalitarianism through the eyes of a little girl and draws a remarkable map of the mind’s battle with memory, loss, and the horrors of war. It confirms Madeleine Thien as one of the most gifted and powerful novelists writing today.

Contributor Notes

Madeleine Thien is the author of two previous books of fiction, Simple Recipes, a collection of stories, and Certainty, a novel. Her fiction and essays have appeared in GrantaThe WalrusFive DialsBrick, and the Asia Literary Review, and her work has been translated into more than sixteen languages. In 2010, she received the Ovid Festival Prize, awarded each year to an international writer of promise. She lives in Montreal.

Editorial Review

A Globe and Mail Best Book
“If you read one Canadian book this year, let it be this one.”
— Johanna Skibsrud
“The story is so compelling, the characters so authentic and the writing so fine that you race through intently... savouring every page.”
 — Montreal Gazette
“The beauty of Madeleine Thien’s prose doesn’t reside only in its clarity and elegance. She’s a surveyor of damaged lives. Thien, a deeply empathetic writer, enfolds her wounded creations in morally precise language, offering the consolation of, in effect, storytelling.”
Globe and Mail
“This book is as powerful as history, as magical as myth, and a light shining on one of the darkest chapters of modern history.”
— Alice Pung, author of Unpolished Gem
“Thien once again demonstrates a talent for creating vivid, indelible images in language both precise and lyrical...there is a confidence in Thien’s writing that many more accomplished authors never attain.”
Quill & Quire
Dogs at the Perimeter is a novel of quiet and breathtaking beauty.… Thien opens up the hearts of her characters with a precision that is deeply humane, peeling apart, page by page, the secrets they keep from themselves.”
— Jury citation, Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction (shortlist)
The strife in Indo—China has inspired some astonishing writing in recent decades, both fiction and non—fiction. Dogs at the Perimeter belongs with the best of such works. But it also tells a more universal story about being borne back into the past — and the inescapability of history.”
The Economist
Dogs at the Perimeter explores the aftermath of war with a quiet power. . . . This is a beautiful, deeply moving novel that addresses universal questions.”
The Independent
“Extremely moving and honest while maintaining lyricism and beautifully balanced prose…”
— A. L. Kennedy
“Fiction like this, clear—eyed and truthful, can give a shape to the chaos of history.… The quiet elegance of Thien’s writing makes a brutal story powerful and moving.”
The Times
“Madeleine Thien’s second novel offers a gripping child’s—eye view of the Cambodian genocide. Sure—footed when it comes to which horrors to show and which to leave to the imagination, it is also utterly convincing in how it weighs the psychological damage inflicted by a regime that demands denial of family, friends and self as a condition of survival.”
Financial Times
“Madeleine Thien’s powerful new novel reminds us, leaving the past behind is rarely simple.… The bewildering horror of ordinary people suddenly thrown into a world of brutal chaos is brilliantly evoked.…Thien brilliantly evokes 1970s Cambodia, from the chaos of Phnom Penh to the sweltering, filthy work camps, from the interrogation centres to the lush forests. But she’s equally adept at bringing cold, clean Montreal to life, from its icy streets to Hiroji’s abandoned apartment.… Her novel leaves the reader deeply moved and, ultimately, hopeful.”
Irish Times

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Reader Reviews

A Truly Moving Novel

I have just finished reading Dogs at the Perimeter on the shores of Lake Beira in Colombo, Sri Lanka. In the magical land of Ondaatje, the sultry air caresses my thoughts and body as I pen these short reflections on Thien’s powerful work of friendship, closing a circle of longing, suffering and uncertainty.

Madeleine Thien’s narrative is a spell-binding odyssey into a dark and painful past. Janie, now a medical researcher in Montreal with a caring husband and a loving son, must relive the tragedy of her childhood in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. Her return to this world of horror and absurdity is triggered by the sudden disappearance of her friend and colleague, Hiroji Matsui. Hiroji is a brilliant doctor, whose brother, Junichiro, vanished in Cambodia thirty years earlier while working for the Red Cross. Janie’s bond to Hiroji quietly unfolds in the opening chapters. While he is not her lover, at least not in the traditional sense, she is drawn to him through their common loss of loved ones in a distant land, and he becomes her soul mate. His unexplained absence crushes her existence and distances her from her husband and child. Convinced that Hiroji has returned to Cambodia in a renewed attempt to find Junichiro, Janie embarks on a physical and metaphysical voyage to a land that she has long locked out of her thoughts.

On the cover of my edition of Madeleine Thien’s entrancing novel, fellow Canadian author, Johanna Skibsrud, has graced Thien with the recommendation “If you read one Canadian book this year, let it be this one.” A fair comment but erroneous in adding “Canadian,” for Thien’s work transcends geographic boundaries and national identity. Nor is it really a “book,” but rather a cloud of thoughts, an experience as heavy and penetrating as the languid air of Lake Beira.

With Dogs at the Perimeter, Madeleine Thien has ascended into the inner circle of timeless authors who entrap your soul with their first lines of prose and subsume your thoughts into theirs until the last.

Dogs at the Perimeter is published by Emblem (McClelland & Steward) and is available at the Collected Works Bookstore in Ottawa.

Con Cú is the author of Soldier, Lily, Peace and Pearls published by Deux Voiliers Publishing.

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