Document Type

Creative Work

Publication Details

Catherine Cole, The Grave at Thu Le, Picador, Sydney, 2005, 330p.




‘The Grave at Thu Le’ examines the history of French colonialism in Vietnam, offering a contemporary re-negotiation of the times, especially since the American-Vietnam War. A work of literary fiction, the narration shifts between the early and late 20th century, examining the role of colonialism in shaping Indo-Chinese history. While focusing on French history, the book also offers new insights into the manner in which the Vietnam War had its genesis in 19th century colonialism. It is significant to Australian research in this area and to a revision of Australia’s role in the Vietnam War.


The book offers new insights into French colonial history in Vietnam. By tracing a French family through the era 1901 – 1954 and re-engaging with Vietnam in the late 20th century through the eyes of a contemporary French woman, the narrative poses questions about the nature of colonialism/imperialism, revolution and migration. The book was also well received in Vietnam and Cole has spoken at length with French historians and social scientists about her work.


The book was hailed by prominent Australian writer, Drusilla Modjeska as bringing ‘an awareness to attitudes of mind that Australian readers will recognise, even if the French–Vietnamese history is unfamiliar. It is Cole’s probing of nostalgia as a response to the discomforts and displacements of a post-modern, post-colonial world that is the challenge of ‘The Grave at Thu Le’ – and its success.’

The book was reviewed favourably in ‘The Monthly’, ‘The Australian’, ‘The Sydney Morning Herald’, ‘Australian Book Review’. It led to invitations to conferences in Australia and Vietnam and to on-going research in Vietnam and France. It was shortlisted in the Asher Award in 2005.