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By Emily on 06-30-10
Best book I've read yet this year
I love novels about Asia, especially about the fall-out from European colonialism -- novels set in Asia or written by Asians. I was very disappointed by Chang-Rae Lee's "The Surrendered" but Soli's book just leaves me wanting more. I want to enter into the world of her characters, as enthralled with them and their Viet Nam as they are with the war that surrounds them. I listened to this book as an audio recording and left many things undone in the days that it took me to listen to all of it.
"The Lotus Eaters" is extraordinarily well-written, from the lyricism of the individual sentences to the taught construction of the story, beginning near the end, then going back ten years to tell the middle of the story, and finishing when Saigon falls in 1975. I knew, from the first chapters, that Helen would fall in love with Linh, that they would be wretched apart at the end of the war, that she would stay behind in Saigon without him. But the middle of the story was compelling nonetheless, to learn how Helen grew into her own as a war reporter and how she fell in love with two men, who both represented some aspect of the Viet Nam war. We have Sam Darrow, the American photojournalist who has become addicted to the thrill of the battle and is oblivious to almost everything outside his viewfinder; and then there's Linh -- for me, the more mysterious and compelling figure -- a Vietnamese poet and spy who loves Helen for long years before his love is returned. Love between a White woman and an Asian man is not frequently explored in literature or art, making this book unusual in that the love affair between the Americans Helen and Darrow is a precursor to the central romance of the book, that of Helen and Linh. The improbability of their love -- as improbable as anything good coming out of war -- makes for one of the most compelling romance stories I have ever read.
19 of 19 people found this review helpful
By Andre on 06-17-10
Beautifully written...and read
After reading numerous glowing reviews for this book I was curious...but also apprehensive because I'm not a fan of "Vietnam war books". However, this book entranced me from the first page to the last. Soli does an exceptional job crafting complex and compelling characters. Her descriptions of Vietnam make the country come alive -- almost emerging as another character. If you are looking for a simplified political parable for or against the war, look elsewhere. For those seeking an original work of fiction that will transport you to another time and place, The Lotus Eaters delivers.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful