Reviews for On Fragile Waves, by E. Lily Yu

iridescentizzy's review

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reflective sad fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Plot
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? No
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

aimiller's review

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emotional sad fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.5

A really gorgeous little book--Yu manages to take the horrors of the Australian immigration policies and both highlight them as horrors (through both the mundanity and the acute spikes,) and as something through which people survive, albeit clearly traumatized. There's a real tenderness that Yu shows in tending to her characters, and the relationship especially between Firuzeh and Noor, that makes this more than just a kind of trauma porn. There's so much that is human in this book, in the face of the brutal, faced-but-also-faceless immigration policies. 

ostara's review

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challenging emotional reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.0

perditorian's review

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challenging emotional sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

4.5


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vivaldi's review

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4.0

Due to my long book backlist, it's been a while since I've last finished a book with days after its publication date. So I was really that glad I get to read On Fragile Waves in the last few days. This is a heartbreaking & poetic magic realism piece about an Afghan family escaping from war and finding new opportunities in Australia. With a unique writing style as well as careful research, E. Lily Yu painted a beautiful dreamscape that conveys both excellent storytelling as well as the undercurrents which shape / splinter the family.

Beautiful moments in On Fragile Waves are abundant and this is shown from the writing style. I have so many quotes highlighted on my iPad because the proses breathe life and are so gorgeous. To mention a few quotes I absolutely love:

"Moonlight washed the gnawed coral pinnacles, frosted the skeletal phosphate cranes, and drenched the canvas tents where a hundred dreamers dreamed gray, grim, and miserable dreams."

"There's something about beginnings and endings. That polishes them so smooth you can nearly see your face in them."

"Home is where you're safe, but sometimes it's not safe. Sometimes it's not yours, but you can shut your eyes and pretend it is."

"I was a daughter-shaped space in the universe."

Quotes like this demonstrated superb word-painting which brings the characters and settings alive. These proses conveyed the tragic experience of refugees seeking a stable home in a Australia, as well as the societal expectations of growing up. While the family suffered as they escaped the war, small & beautiful moments of storytelling was a welcoming relief. The stories that Firuzeh and Nour shared with each other during the times of hardship organically fleshes out the Afghan culture. These stories also have a tint of hopefulness as each of them seeks out the narratives throughout the novel. I'm particularly touched by Firuzeh's narrative of coming of age. So the writing left a lot of impression and emotional impact on me. It's thought-provoking and heartbreaking all the same.

While I love the writing style, there are a few minor concerns I had with On Fragile Waves. For instance, the spoken sections aren't embedded with quotation marks which can be difficult to follow. I don't think this is a big issue because these chapters are trying to convey finding a relief from the turbulent currents outside, through the storytelling & the fantasy worlds. I also think the multiple POV's was another part which initially threw me off, but as I crunched through the novel I realised how these additional POV's provided the context of the social dynamics in Australia and how the neighbours treated the family members. So I found these sections succinct and yet very well researched.

To sum it up, On Fragile Waves is a beautifully heartbreaking and thought-provoking body of work with excellent storytelling. I would highly recommend this to anyone who's into magic realism.

espeon's review

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I got about 1/5th of the way through the book before putting it down. I wouldn't say the book is bad; rather, it got a little too upsetting for me personally. Clarifying so that me marking it as unfinished doesn't necessarily discourage people from checking it out. It does have an interesting writing style, and while I was worried about how it would be handled being written by an author who isn't Afghan, it didn't feel necessarily too fake or voyeuristic. So the stuff she had been saying in interviews about how much she talked to refugees before writing this is certainly true, I think. 

Overall, while I didn't finish, I love this author's other work, so I encourage people who are interested in experimental prose to give it a shot. The racism and negative sentiment about refugees is extremely vicious in this book, however, so do be careful.

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livmm's review

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challenging emotional hopeful reflective sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

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kirsten508's review

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4.0

First of all, I want to say I am so thankful for getting the opportunity to read this ARC. It was a lovely experience.

Firuzeh and her youber brother have to leave Afghanistan with their parants, due to the ongoing war. Their goal is to seek safety in Australia, but they have a long jouney ahead. Losing friends just as fast as they had found them.

When I started reading this book I thought that the writing style was a bit odd. Not exactly mu thing, but I have to say I got used to it pretty quickly.

It is a very fast moving story, and a quick read, but it is such a heavy topic. Even though it is a heavy topic it is written in a way that doesn't make it heavy to read. You just want to keep reading to know what is going to happen to them. It is told in a lighthearted way, with still the same impact. It shoes the struggle immigrants have to go to. I did shed some tears.

Firuzeh grows so much as a character in just these few pages. At first she is this little girl who does not understand her parents and their choices. But in the end she is so much more mature.

Overall, a lovely read, and would definitely recommend this story.

mishys2's review

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dark emotional sad slow-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? No
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated
TW: Self harm, suicide 

A beautifully written story about a family’s journey for survival. To escape a country that was no longer safe and tread across treacherous waters to a newfound land they could call home.

This story starts off hopeful but it’s far from it. We follow their journey from Pakistan, as they escape by boat to Nauru and finally to Australia. The real story is what happens in between. Their journey, their fight for survival, and all the risks they took to reach new land. 

We are shown are side that’s not often talked about. What actually goes on in these refugee camps. How they are treated and if they even make it out alive. 

That racism is real and alive in Australia. As much as it’s a multicultural country, we are far from the accepting and moving country we should be. The terrible treatment given to refugees, the zero support network, and reliant on volunteers to help. 

Firuzeh and her family are faced with countless struggles from living on bread and dry chicken to rejection letters to the xenophobic and racist people they meet. They really are just trying to start a new life but people can be so cruel. 

We also get a glimpse into the family dynamic of a family that praises their only son over their daughter. A son that gets to play soccer, have treats and hang with friends. While their daughter is stuck at home doing homework and chores.

The daughter who is haunted by her dead friend. The friend who didn’t make it across the waters. Who talks to her in her dreams and saves her from her nightmares. 

The story itself was heartbreaking indeed. We see two parents struggling to make ends meet. The division they placed between brother and sister. The rage that was bubbling inside a little girl. 

The lyrical prose is something to get used too, and the lack of quotations marks often left me confused with who was speaking. Aside from that, there were random chapters of side characters (that had quotation marks?) that didn’t really add anything to the rest of the story. However, I loved the setting of Melbourne and use of Aussie slang. 

If you like poetic-like prose and a touch of magical realism. A story of a struggling family just trying to survive. Then this ones for you. 

Thank you Netgalley and Erewhon Books for providing me with this arc in exchange for my honest review. 

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mvvelde's review

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dark hopeful informative sad medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes

5.0

On Fragile Waves tells the riveting and raw refugee journey of an Afghan family of four: Omid, Bahar, Nour and Firuzeh Daizangi.

So much praise for this book! I really enjoyed the imagery as scenery changed from one country or geographical area to the next--and not just as in places but also in that of figments of imagination of Firuzeh and Nour. Throughout the grueling voyage towards becoming permanent refugees, Yu places bits and pieces of two different tales are told by mother or father to the children. I saw this incorporation of mysticism as something so realistic and inherent to parental nature.--that is: these tales are used to draw on the courage or other characteristics the characters within had, and to be used as encouragement for the difficulties Firuzeh and Nour were facing. In addition, I was glad to read from the position of different characters. For that of Firuzeh especially, it was lovely to read her self reflection. For others, such as the Nauru refugee camp workers, I much appreciated the juxtaposition of such a perspective next to that of the asylum seekers themselves. It highlighted the frivolity of the workers complaints about their own lives...they have jobs and loved ones and choose to be separate for days by choice, whilst the migrants have only each other, poor quality of food, etc. The former complains about the nature of the job. The latter are just happy that their loved ones are alive. For me, this added depth and meaning to the story, but also allowed me to connect better with Firuzeh and her family as characters.

I enjoyed Yu's style of writing, though I will admit that it took a few pages and occasional re-reading to get used to. For me, it seemed like a mirror of the chaos that existing within the reality of migrating. Words coming from here and there; interjections--not only of words but of actions--as others speak...it  was as if it the writing symbolized the  abrupt changes in the scenery and the people in and surrounding the lives of Firuzeh and her family.

Lastly, a thank you to Erewhon Books and NetGalley for the free eARC. It was truly a pleasure to read.

5 stars for On Fragile Waves!

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