Personal and political, tragic and bitingly satirical, an ethereal journey through Hanoi, Saigon, Paris, Pyongyang, and Seoul.
A young Vietnamese woman living in Paris travels back to Saigon for her estranged mother’s funeral. Her brother had recently built a new house in Saigon, and staged a grotesquely lavish ceremony for their mother to inaugurate what was rumoured to be the first elevator in a private home in the country. But shortly after the ceremony, in the middle of the night, their mother dies after mysteriously falling down the elevator shaft.
Following the funeral, the daughter becomes increasingly fascinated with her family’s history, and begins to investigate and track an enigmatic figure, Paul Polotski, who emerges from her mother’s notebook. Like an amateur sleuth, she trails Polotski through the streets of Paris, sneaking behind him as he goes about his usual routines; meanwhile, she researches her mother’s past—zigzagging across France and Asia—trying to find clues to the spiraling, deepening questions her mother left behind unanswered—and perhaps unanswerable.
Still banned in Vietnam, Elevator in Saigon is a suspenseful novel that is part detective thriller, historical romance, postcolonial ghost story, and a biting satire of life in a communist state.