Posted by: Lisa Hill | July 12, 2011

The Boat, by Nam Le

The BoatThere’s a really good review of Nam Le’s The Boat at The Echidna and The Fox which has reminded me about this young author’s remarkable debut into the Australian literary scene.  I read my copy of The Boat as an eBook – purchased from That Big US Company that’s just about to swallow up that Big UK online bookstore, but I wish now that I’d bought it as a real book.  There’s something about having the real book on your shelves that serves as a pleasant reminder of having read it – it’s like having photos in a photo album instead of digital photos on the computer where no one ever sees them.  I was prompted to think about this by this article about a Bookless library.

The Boat has won countless awards, the most prestigious being the Prime Minister’s Award for Fiction in, the NSW Premier’s Award and the Melbourne Prize for Literature, all in 2009.  If you haven’t caught up with it yet, check it out!

Author: Nam Le
Title: The Boat
Publisher: Amazon

© Lisa Hill


  1. Oh, I loved this book Lisa .., such a clever versatile writer. I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next. As for digital books … I’m trying to switch over but I do like the feel of paper. (I have though given up printing photographs and don’t miss this, and I rarely buy CDs now but go to iTunes so I guess I’ll get there.)


  2. I’ve only read a few things digitally, downloaded on the the iphone, or online, since I’m still holding out on the ereader concept. I certainly see some advantages for it- I’m travelling again next month and organising my travel reads it would certainly be easier if I could just take one device instead of multiple books, but I like reading from books. I hope we don’t get completely digital too soon.


    • Oh Louise, I think if I only read digital online or on an iPhone I’d be holding out too. I can’t manage reading online. Not at all like reading a book in a comfy spot. I haven’t tried reading on an iPhone but I can’t imaging enjoying reading on a small screen but I know people do. The Kindle though is a lovely little thing. I like holding it … it was great for the Rough Guide to Japan too. No huge book to carry (though it doesn’t do maps well. I think the iPad would have been better for the travel guide but I’d already bought a hard copy and a KIndle copy so just couldn’t justify a third copy AND again the Kindle is easy to use/carry than the iPad. I love the iPad but for different things. So, not fully converted yet to eReading but I’m not averse either.

      And, eReaders are great for travel reading.


      • You know what I’d like? A Kindle that’s just like what I have now with that best-of-all-the-eReaders screen for reading – but with a little button to press that brings up an alternate screen in colour, just like an iPad. I want that for travel guides and newspapers and magazines, but I can’t bear reading a book on an iPad. Too shiny, too big, too awkward.


        • Agree on all counts. Colour on the Kindle for maps etc would be good – and because (I think this is the reason) maps in the guide books are images you can’t enlarge them in the kindle like you can the text so they are very hard to read. But the iPad is too shiny (my eyes hurt when I read for any period of time), too big and too awkward I agree for reading. Lovely for other stuff though!


          • Now wouldn’t it be nice if Kindle could come up with a little refinement to zoom in on maps?


    • Louise, take it from me, a Kindle or similar is just brilliant when you’re travelling. I’m sure you know that sinking feeling when you’ve run out of books to read and you’re in a country where books in English are a rarity. Lo! Finally you find a book shop that stocks them and what do you find? Classics you’ve read and pulp fiction you don’t want to. In Italy in 2005 I was reduced to reading a Maeve Binchy that someone had left behind in the hotel in Positano. No such problem on my last trip however, not with my 500+ books on the Kindle, and best of all, because the suitcase wasn’t full of books, we had no problems with excess baggage like we usually do.


  3. Hi Lisa, thanks for your kind comment on my review. You have identified a key point about ereaders for me: for many books it doesn’t matter what reading format one uses, but for truly remarkable books, such as The Boat (or, eg, Colm Toibin’s The Master), I need the real book so that its presence on the shelf refreshes the memory and joy of reading it.


    • I have needed the real book – and still do really – but am telling myself that I’ll have to change as one day I’ll have to downsize and decisions will have to be made.


      • I think I’m going to be like Homer and Langley and die surrounded by mountainous piles of books LOL.


    • Yes, Bryce, exactly. I do not know how the economics of this are going to work out in the brace new world of 21st century publishing, but I know I am always going to want to own particular books, and I want them in hardback too. I really hate that some of the First Editions in my Miles Franklin collection are only paperback. They’re great books they deserve to be hardbacks!


  4. I read this from the library, and so have the same but different issues, about wanting to own a book but not doing so.

    I can’t wait to see what Nam Le comes out with next because I really liked the different voices and settings etc that he was able to fit into this collection.


    • Oh Marg, I hate that too. But the other thing I hate is when I’ve taken a book on holiday overseas and really loved it and had to leave it behind because of excess baggage. I had to leave John Banville’s The Sea behind in Paris and was still so sulky about it when I got home that I took the opportunity to buy another copy and get it autographed when Banville was here in Melbourne.


  5. […] that I know of include Brian Castro who was born in HongKong, Nam Le from Vietnam, and Ouyang Yu from China, J.M. Coetzee from South Africa of course, and Michelle de […]


  6. […] nor irrelevant. But in practice they can be treacherous to negotiate. In the decade since The Boat was published, the cultural politics around these issues has only become more fraught. The communal […]


  7. […] of short stories, The Boat is the only one I haven’t reviewed.  (Update: see here and here, […]


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