The Bukowski Agency - Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains

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12 Gauge Facial
Jukebox Jezebel

70,500 words
Finished books now available


Canada: Hamish Hamilton/Penguin, Apr 2016
World English Audio: Audible
Romania: Editura RAO


Yasuko Thanh (Photo: Anastasia Andrews)
(Photo: Anastasia Andrews)

Yasuko’s story collection Floating Like the Dead was published by McClelland & Stewart in 2012 and was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Award and the B.C. Book Prize for Fiction. One story in it won an Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Short Story. The title story won the Journey Prize for the best story published in Canada in 2009. Quill and Quire named Floating like the Dead a best book of the year. CBC hailed Yasuko Thanh one of ten writers to watch in 2013. Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains is her debut novel inspired by the history of her father’s family in French Indochina. She lives in Victoria, B.C., with her husband and two children. In her spare time she plays in the punk band 12 Gauge Facial and the rockabilly band Jukebox Jezebel.

Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains

a novel by Yasuko Thanh


The Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains - Canadian cover

A doctor brews a potion from the dartura flower with the aim of poisoning soldiers in the French garrison in Saigon. Based on the real-life Hanoi Poisoning Plot of 1908, this novel tells a story that crosses the landscape of Vietnam when the doctor is forced to flee. The characters include a fish-girl pulled from the Mekong River — in a superstition-rich land, this is an omen; a poet with one green eye; a rich revolutionary who detests his inheritance money, and a pregnant wife who keeps a menagerie of pigeons, cats, and a boa constrictor.

The stories in this novel are Yasuko Thanh’s family’s stories. For political reasons, her grandfather was forced into hiding for two years during the Japanese occupation of Vietnam, after which time her grandmother and father set out to search for him. Falling somewhere between Kiran Desai’s Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard, Edith Wharton’s Ethan Frome, and The End of the Alphabet by C.S. Richardson, the novel promises a poetic, fantastic, darkly comic look at the cost of insurrection as well as the complications of falling in love at a time when historical conditions complicate it.



“The ordinary mingles with the monumental…. A novel that feels simultaneously historical and firmly contemporary.”  — MAISONNEUVE Magazine

“A compelling and devastating debut.”  — THE GLOBE AND MAIL

“Deft touches of magical realism lend this story of love, obligation, and sabotage the mysterious aura referenced in the title.”  — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, starred review

Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains will carry you away with the startling clarity of it language—you will almost forget you are reading at all. Until, that is, you are drawn up short by the uncanny sense that this book is not really about the past at all … that it is instead directly addressing you, the reader.”  — JOHANNA SKIBSRUD, Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning author of The Sentimentalists

“Sweeping yet intimate, Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains is a novel in which not a single, haunting detail is trivial, and a devastating edginess straddles what is intoxicating, astonishing, and at once ancient and contemporary. Yasuko Thanh has rendered a richly imagined narrative of five men plotting, drinking, dreaming of poison against the fascinating backdrop of colonialism and revolution, where ghosts, superstition, love, and insanity seethe. This is a book to be savoured, thought about, and discussed -- a book to be remembered.”  — ALEXANDRA CURRY, author of The Courtesan

“The universal legacies of colonialism: guilt, revenge, violence, ghosts. Yasuko Thanh captures Viet Nam's historical intrigues in story-telling that is compelling, vivid, tragic, passionate.”  — KIM ECHLIN, author of The Disappeared



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