Book Jacket


rank 2353
word count 12211
date submitted 09.08.2012
date updated 09.08.2012
genres: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Historic...
classification: universal

Alcoholic Rice

Uyen Roland

A novel about London's Vietnamese boat people, the roles of the past in dreams of the future, and the search for the meanings of life.


Thuy Nguyen looks like ‘bright young things’, holding a high-flying job in marketing and living in an exclusive West London area with boyfriend Stephen Palmer, who is a reluctant banker, quiet, dreamy, sometimes naïve, with a rebellious streak.

What few people know is that Thuy is gripped by her past as one of the Vietnamese boat people in the early 1980s. Despite the trauma at an early age when she escaped Vietnam with her family on a rickety boat and lived at Chimawan refugee camp in Hong Kong, she is a happy, optimistic character. However, because of that rite of passage, Thuy is obsessed with food and reminiscence about a childhood friend, Quan, a nine-year-old Vietnamese boy she befriended at Chimawan, a microcosm of Vietnam’s boat people society.

Set in modern-day London but giving interwoven fictional and historical details of Hong Kong’s Chimawan refugee camp in the 1980s, ‘ALCOHOLIC RICE’ gives a glimpse into the life of Vietnamese immigrants in Britain, the roles of the past in dreams of the future, and the search for meanings of middle-class life. And lovers of Oriental food will be in for a real treat.

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, asia, children, contemporary fiction, food novels, historical setting, hong kong, immigrants, literary fiction, londoners, market trader, nostalgia,...

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Casimir Greenfield wrote 507 days ago

Beautifully written. I was captivated from the first lines. Your power of description and characterisation are very strong and I love the way you never over-write.

I have dipped in and out, and although I rarely back an incomplete book, this will be the exception.

I will return for a more thorough read.

Cas, Slow Poison

carol jefferies wrote 522 days ago

How brilliant you write. I thought your book had a good, intriguing start, with the reader sympathizing already with Thuy because of her scar.

The way you describe life in the overcrowded camp in Chimatwan gives a real insight into the appalling way Vietnamese boat were treated. The culinary theme reminded me of Nigel Slater's novel, 'Toast.'

The characters come across well and I enjoyed hearing about their superstitions. The sea voyages these people had to endure are harrowing, and the childrens' resilience amazed me.

It came rather as a shock to find Thuy back in England.

I would be very grateful if you could take a look at the novel I recently uploaded on this site. It is called, 'A Prince Unboyed,' by Carol Jefferies.

Many Thanks,

Carol Jefferies


Torresian wrote 530 days ago

Hi Uyen,
My husband and I were short-term foster parents to two Vietnamese unaccompanied minors, both boys, at different times in the early 1980s. Your book makes me wonder what they might have gone through at the refugee camps in the Philippines and Thailand. I look forward to reading more.

I've found it quite helpful to write a detailed outline before I started on my own historical novel. The outline helps the story to flow more smoothly and helps me judge whether or not a scene moves the story forward.

All the best,

Gloria J. Palileo

Sue Harries wrote 560 days ago

brilliant, will add to WL and back as soon as space. Sue 'It's a Dog's Life'

Lenny Banks wrote 609 days ago

Hi Uyen, I read chapter 2. I found this to be a facinating piece of writing, it feels like I am sitting with the narrator and they are describing everything that is happening. I was facinated with the recipies that were described even if a couple of times it seemed like a shopping list. It was awful and at the same time heart warming to read what happened to the capives (positive and negative) in the camp, it is valuable that stories like this can now be shared.
It is a great shame that man keeps making the same mistakes over and over.
Good Luck with your book, I know you will indeed find an audience, high stars.
Kindest Regards and Best Wishes
Lenny Banks - Tide and Time: At The Rock.

faith rose wrote 614 days ago

Dear Uyen,

I just took a peek at your first couple! This is such an interesting read. Beautifully written and culturally rich. I am learning so much! I love the title and cover also. A fascinating piece.

All the very best,
Faith Rose
Now To Him

Wanttobeawriter wrote 615 days ago

This is a terrifically interesting story. The description of how little food there was to eat on the boat, the worry about it sinking, the idea a woman would give away her son to be rescued, then the difficulty walking when they reached Chimawan . . . it’s all great reading. And made me very grateful for my common everyday upbringing in a small safe town. I think yu’ll find a wide audience for this among people, like myself, who know virtually nothing about “boat people”; I can see it even as a required read for a sociology course as a study of different lifestyles. An enlightening read, I’m starring this highly and adding it to my shelf. Wanttobeawriter: Who Killed the President?

Abby Vandiver wrote 616 days ago

This is a good idea for a story. You seemed to have a lot of knowledge about the subject. There are some grammatical errors, for example quotation marks belong after the punctuation. For example "It shouldn't happen again". s/b "It shouldn't happen again." And the chapter is very long. I think you should split it up.

Good start.

Kenneth Edward Lim wrote 616 days ago

You recall the minutae of refugee camp life with amazing elucidity, your descriptives ranging from characterizations to situations to your protagonist's inner feelings at that time. Thuy is definitely a survivor, her strengths forged from the trials of growing up in a war-torn country and escaping across pirate-infested seas to refuge in close quarters with others dispossessed. Finally transplanted on British soil and nurtured by supportive people and romantic love, she develops a new identity while struggling with reminders of her past. Your straightforward writing style laid out simply and directly is easy to follow and a delight to read. Thank you so much for sharing.

Kenneth Edward Lim
The North Korean

KMac23 wrote 616 days ago

Dear Uyen,

I'm so impressed how you brought to life the Chimawan refugee camp in such detailed description, your story being so moving and heartfelt! I've never read a fictionalized, historical account of the Vietnamese boat people and what they endured in the camps, and always wondered what happened after seeing news stories of the boats coming in to the shore filled with people. It was sad to know of the conditions they endured and that children actually grew up there.

Camp as seen through the young girl, Thuy's eyes, gave this a different perspective as she conveyed what it was like for children there, not quite understanding the pain the adults lived through, playing games, hitting each other with eggs, playing with her 'North Vietnamese' friend, chanting communist poems etc.

I'd like to know more of Steve and his relationship with Thuy and how she escaped the camp and ended up living such a different lifestyle, and maybe get to know her and Steve's personalities as adults, their feelings and thoughts.

How emotional the ending was, when the people began to cry after eating the alcoholic rice, and then hearing of the death of the beautiful girl, Huong! What a beautifully written story! I enjoyed this immensely! Highest stars!

A Gate Called Beautiful

strachan gordon wrote 616 days ago

The first two thirds of the chapter made a very strong impression , it reminded me , in a completely authentic way ,of the movement of peoples as delineated in 'The Grapes of Wrath' by John Steinbeck. This is absolutely first class and an education for someone who knows very little about Vietnam post-1980. Watchlisted and starred.Would you be able to look at the first chapter of my novel 'A Buccaneer' which is set amongst Pirates in the 17th century , with best wishes Strachan Gordon

Tod Schneider wrote 617 days ago

Dear Uyen,
I was unable to open chapter one (sometimes this is just a temporary problem with authonomy, so it may be fine in a few hours) but I did open chapter 2. I loved the fine details, which gave the writing a very rich, vivid quality. The end of the chapter was shocking, very effective. This looks very promising. Best of luck with this.

RMAWriteNow wrote 617 days ago

Hi Uyen; I really don't know where to start. I don't think I've ever read as much in one chapter before. Thuy's story is remarkable, interesting, engaging and I could go on for ages in the same manner.
I shall say that I was at first drawn to your book by the great title, really good. I then read the pitches, which I found pulled at my mind to read this. I am an Englishman, but coming from the North, know little to nothing about the vietnamese community in London. Your story quickly made me wish to do so. Your lovely descriptions, of everything form the food being eaten, to the sea and dolphins within it, are very good. This is one of those books you would start and not put down. You told me more about Vietnam and it's people, customs and general living, in a twenty minute read than in my whole life so far.
There are a few issues with grammar and general sentence structure but nothing that can't easily br ironed out. Plus I think it is important to keep the writing sounding as authentic as possible as I found it added to the story greatly. It would possibly be worth shortening the chapters as some readers may be put off by this but again no real problem.
I shall return to this as I wish to see what happens in Thuy's world. Well done.
Watchlist and starred.
The Snow Lily