Nam Le is a young Australian writer who imigrated to Australia with his family when he was less than one. Le’s Vietnamese ancestry is a heavy inspiration for his work, having come to Australia as boat refugees. Indeed, Nam Le’s debut short story collection The Boat both acknowledges these ethnic traditions and breaks them.

The seven stories span the globe in their pursuit of exploration of human condition. Le manages to somehow successfully imagine the condition of characters far removed from his own reality, something that many authors may not have dared to attempt, especially as their first work. With that said, the strongest stories in this collection are the first and the last (Love and Honor and Pity and Pride and Compassion and Sacrifice, and The Boat): both partly autobiographical.

Love and Honor is a fine work of meta-fiction. It chronicles the life of a main character who shares Le’s name, and who, like Le was at the time of writing, is attending the Iowa’s writer’s workshop. A father’s visit proves monumental turning point for Le’s character, and after a big discovery about his family’s past, things will no longer be the same.

The Boat is a passionate and heart-felt tale of people forced to seek a better life. It vividly describes the horrors of the so-called Boat people and the reader cannot help but empathise with their condition. This is a hugely topical story for Australia and a recommended read for people seeking an authentic angle largely unexplored.

The Boat’s style can be heavy at times – Le is prolific in metaphor and simile. While many images work, some stick out a little too much as if composed by a writer seeking to create imaginative writing over good good writing.

For a first work, The Boat is a fine promise for good things to come from Nam Le.

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