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I know I know, ideas above my station! From Child, Rankin and Cornwell to Viet Thanh Nguyen's debut novel! The thing is when I saw the 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner unrated at the time, possibly unread and seemingly unloved it just seemed too much of a curio to turn my head from. I'm not even going to begin to pretend that I know what makes a good prize winning novel, that's for much wiser minds than mine to weigh up and decide upon.
But did the book entertain me? Hell yes! Some of the passages have genuine humour and much of the book is blackly satirical and just as an example includes the lead character's discovery of the sexuality of raw squid! I'll say no more on that but a myriad topics get covered and while these characters existed half a world apart from me it seems, shock horror, that there are more similarities between the peoples of the world than disparities.
Did the book make me think? Yes again. This does descend to some pretty dark stuff including incidents of violence, conscience, political expedience and the mental cruelty of torture. Our written narrator is not only of mixed parentage, something looked down upon in the Vietnamese culture but also a Viet Cong double agent! That's enough to stretch anyone's mind and the author takes no prisoners while discussing both Western and Oriental culture.
Did the book excite me? Yes, there are some tense scenes including the early escape from Vietnam which was particularly well done albeit tragic in nature.
So was it great? I suspect as books go it genuinely is. So much so that I will return to it as I have no doubt that multiple re-readings would unearth more gems from this multi-layered tome. As an audiobook it's not perfect though and it does take considerable concentration. At least by my standards! Francois Chau's mildly accented English gives the feel of authenticity but otherwise paints the text in fairly arid tones. I am sure I lost nuance in some of the more philosophical and humorous passages.
So, a very accomplished book and one that I am very glad that I have completed. So much so that I will indeed give it another try some time to see what I missed first time!
12 of 15 people found this review helpful
Gets you to a place between the two sides in the Vietnam war.
Takes you inside bias and sides.
The only drawback is of all the two-dimensional and cliched female characters, which though in part understandable as part of the main character's perspective, give him no surprises.
So great! An amazing listen 👂 there are times I had to pull my car over while listen as I was so engaged in the book.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Incredible writing, great historical insight into the war and Vietnam, and lucid critiques of American culture and thinking. This would be a great book if it covered any one aspect but this book shines in them all. I've already recommended this to many of my friends and heartily recommend it to you, too.