The Tapestries is a novelization of the life of the author’s grandfather, a gifted embroiderer who served in the court of the last king of Vietnam. In 1916, Dan Nguyen is wed to his first wife, Ven, a women almost two decades his senior. Ven becomes his caretaker, and when the family is murdered by the treacherous mayor of Cam Le Village, she gives up everything she holds dear to save him with the hope that someday he will avenge his family’s honor.
This is a tale of survival, of passion, and of secrets. It is also a story of a beloved and honored grandparent told from the heart of a curious and adoring grandchild. Exotic settings, ranging from the rural farming village of Cam Le to the inner sanctum of the Forbidden Purple City, are richly portrayed. The sights, smells and vivid colors of Vietnamese festivals and ceremonies come alive through lavish description.
The plot is so complex that at times the reader can lose sight of the plot’s general focus in favor of smaller details. But at the same time, the intricate plot is what gives this book its momentum and leads to a rewarding and deeply touching conclusion. My only criticism lies with the writing style, which I found to be a little too restrained and reserved, although many readers may appreciate emotional restraint in writing more than I do.