Popular Australian comedian, Anh Do, arrived in Australia by boat as a child, his family fleeing Vietnam to seek asylum. His story could be one of fear and despair or a tried and true tale of rags to riches. Instead, Anh Do focusses his autobiography on family, life and love, in particular for his mother.
With a flair for good humour, Anh Do narrates his own book, which does contain elements of the other themes as we follow him from kid to comedian, but his family stays up front and centre for most of that journey.
He’s a masterful storyteller, sprinkling dark memories of pirates attacking their boat with whimsical stories of Siamese fighting fish falling in love. As expected, there is a lot of humour to be found amongst his reminiscences of growing up, changing countries and choosing his career path. It seems he’s been a bit of a larrikin and an optimist all of his life!
Anh’s style is personable and real, making the touching recollections more heartfelt and the tense times more frightening. He reads as though he’s talking directly to you and there is often a smile in his voice which makes him utterly engaging.
Those who don’t know Anh Do’s comedy or style are in for an extra treat by being introduced to the man through his unique life story. It’s an education in itself of life in Vietnam and Australia’s attitudes back then, both so vastly different to now.
For existing fans of Anh Do, he does not disappoint. His autobiography is everything one could hope for, to help us understand the man and his background. Even so, his narration is the greatest bonus to The Happiest Refugee because it’s his own story that he’s lifting off the page.
Despite Anh Do’s current success and his treacherous journey to Australia, his tale is relatable because of the way he frames it. He’s not a name-dropper or someone trying to impress. His goal, which he succeeds at very well, is to bring the listener along with him, allowing us to experience all the happiness, fear, affection and inspiration that motivates him.
Like AB Facey’s autobiography, A Fortunate Life, which has become a classic of Australian literature, The Happiest Refugee has the potential to shine the light on a more recent era of Australian history and provide an insight into finding hope and happiness from the ashes of what’s come before. Both books are equally inspirational and deserving of your attention.
The Happiest Refugee was released by Bolinda in June 2017. It runs for approximately six and a half hours and is available on regular CD or MP3 CDs through Bolinda Audio, or as a digital download through Audible.
Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Rating out of 10: 10