Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains

City of Victoria Butler Book Prize
About this Work 

Vietnam is a haunted country, Dr. Nguyen Georges-Minh is a haunted man. In 1908, the French rule Saigon, but uneasily. Each day, more Vietnamese rebels are paraded through the streets towards the gleaming blade of the guillotine.
     This is a warning that Georges-Minh will not heed. A Vietnamese national and Paris-educated physician, he is obsessed by guilt over his material wealth and nurses a secret loathing for the French connections that have made him rich.  With a close-knit group of his friends calling themselves the Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains, Georges-Minh plots revenge on the French for the savagery they have shown to the Vietnamese. And it falls to Georges-Minh to create a poison to mix into the Christmas dinner of a garrison of French soldiers. It is an act that will send an unmistakable message to the French: Get out of Vietnam.
     Journey Prize winner Yasuko Thanh transports us into a vivid, historical Vietnam, one that is filled with chaotic streets, teeming marketplaces, squalid opium dens, and angry ghosts that exist side by side with the living.

Mysterious Fragrance of the Yellow Mountains, won the Rogers Writers Trust for Fiction and was nominated for the First Novel Award. Yasuko lives in Victoria, B.C., with her two children. In her spare time she plays in a punk band called 12 Gauge Facial, for which she writes all the songs and music.

Hamish Hamilton
Jurors' Citation 

A haunting book that explores the harsh impact of colonialism, the blind, random damage it drags in its wake, and the puny nature of ill-thought out resistance versus the well-oiled wheels of imperialism. Thanh’s book is a sensory treat, a complex collage of images and themes. Original sharp and spiky language brings the reader fully into the narrative moment.

Yasuko Thanh

Yasuko Nguyen Thanh was born June 30, 1971 in Victoria, British Columbia to a German mother and a Vietnamese father.
At 15, Thanh dropped out of school and lived on the streets. Previous to winning the Journey Prize for her short story Floating Like the Dead in 2009, Thanh earned her living as a busker, an opium dealer, a cleaner of goat pens, a Bed & Breakfast operator, housekeeper, and panhandler. 

She was named one of ten CBC Books' writers to watch in 2013.

She has lived in Canada, Mexico, Germany, Honduras. Thanh completed a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Victoria.    She screams in the punk band 12 Gauge Facial, and lives with her husband, Hank Angel, and her two children on Vancouver Island, BC.