Critical Review: Memories of a Pure Spring – Sara


Memories of a Pure Spring is chalked full of parallels to author Duong Thu Huong. The story sets in Vietnam post-war as the citizens attempt to pick of the pieces of their broken society. Tales of sacrifice and betrayal keep the protagonists busy, as does the Communist government.

Themes in the novel intertwine duty and sacrifice. Suong is a woman stuck in a poor situation, unwilling to leave her husband Hung even though he is self-destructive. She destroys her body as a nightly performer to make ends meat to support the family. He betrays her, runs away and dishonors his marriage vows. Suong is forced to seek him out and nurse him back to health in hopes that the man she once loved can be revived.

Through metaphors hidden in nature we are able to depict how the characters are coping with life struggles. Ylang-ylang trees play of significant importance because they are present when Hung and Suong are first intimate and then present again as Hung commits suicide. Overall men are not viewed in a positive light and the female characters are constantly picking up their significant other’s slack. Memories of a Pure Spring magnifies weaknesses in Vietnamese culture and for that reason, countries it was deemed a banned book.

As mentioned, the connections author Duong Thu Huong has to her characters explains why the country was so un-accepting to her publishing’s. She once worked with the communist party, later joined an artistic troupe and witnessed the most heavily bombed areas of her country. She felt like the government was doing her an injustice, so therefore she had militaristic characters in Memories of a Pure Spring who were wealthy,

misinformed and corrupt. Huong felt like her duty was to be honest with the people and tell the story of her people that they were often afraid to say. Huong gave a voice to overlooked, hardworking Vietnamese women and the things they sacrificed to protect.

-Sara Stephens

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