Dragons, grief and love in ‘The Wave’ by Hoa Pham



‘I remember how you were,
not how you are. We were we
until we became you and I.’

Midori and Âu Cô are international
university students tasting freedom
from family for the first time. They
discover Melbourne and each other.
All is well until the tsunami that
swamps their world…

Midori and Âu Cô play at being silver dragons birthing pearls from their mouths. They are united by loneliness. Midori’s parents are killed by the tsunami in Fukushima and soon after Midori and Âu Cô witness a university shooting.

The Wave by Hoa Pham

Published: 2015 by Spinifex press

Source: Library


‘Once there was a dragon that lived in the sea, her body formed sinewy by the beating of waves. She fell in love with the breeze above the water line that arced and kissed the ocean and the ground. Little did she know that it was a wind dragon that had caught her fancy because she was invisible in the sunlight.’

A beautifully written and heartbreaking story about love and grief. The Wave begins with two young women who bond over creating dragons in a universe of their own making as they also share warmth in different languages (respectively Vietnamese & Japanese) while falling in love in Australia. It was great to read from the perspectives of international students as this point of view is so important. Âu Cô and Midori both bring nuanced observations to their experiences of student and diasporic family life in Australia.

This is also a story with a heartbreaking bend due to the retrospective lens. I should have realised this aspect of the story much earlier on as the novel does open with Âu Cô observing the Buddhist 49 days of mourning. Therefore, note that this has a tragic ending for the lovers involving loss due to suicide (Trigger warning for this trope). The Wave also deals with the complexity of depression, hospitalisation and PTSD from Midori’s perspective. Âu Cô’s grief and complex family pressures are shared too.

Though I must note that Midori and Âu Cô’s experiences are not representative of all QPoC experiences but only highlight their particular experiences. For any readers seeking QPoC diasporic stories with a light romantic ending, I recommend Not Your Sidekick by C.B Lee.


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6 thoughts on “Dragons, grief and love in ‘The Wave’ by Hoa Pham

  1. I appreciate the warning on this book (as beautiful as it sounds). I think Not Your Sidekick is a better option for me. It’s been on my TBR list for a long time!


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