Aug 24, 2010

Novels of Vietnam: The Lotus Eaters and The Man from Saigon

The Lotus Eaters: A Novel
The Lotus Eaters
The Man from Saigon: A Novel
The Man from Saigon
I was impressed that two novels on the Vietnam War have been published by authors who were not present in the war but who did enough research and interviews to write credible war stories set in Vietnam.  The novels feature two women in the war, one  a reporter in The Man from Saigon: A Novel by Marti Leimbach and the other a photographer in The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli, both printed 2010.

I started reading them both and realized from the author's information and book description that the writers were creating the story from their imagination, (great!) using of course a lot of research material from books, news reports, maybe even interviews. I like historical fiction but the Vietnam War is still so new that, to me, novels about the war really aren't yet in that category. In other words, I lost interest in the books. I think I would have preferred novels based on the experiences of real people.

However, the two novels are popular and selling well. Just not my cup of tea, not yet... Maybe many years down the road, writers can fictionalize the experiences of real people in the war, which they can't do now, as such persons, many still alive, might not enjoy being the subject of fiction.

UPDATE ON THE LOTUS EATERS: I have, since writing this post, interviewed Tatjana Soli and posted an interview with the author, here. For me, Soli's research and familiarity with the subject and those who endured the war put a new light on her book.

From my updated Jan. 20 review of The Lotus Eaters: The title is arresting. especially for those who know Tennyson's poem of the same name, describing the voyages of Ulysses and his band of warriors who are tempted by the sleep-inducing lotus and the people of the land they discover, to remain and never leave the place. The title though may not refer to the Vietnamese in the war, who, on both sides, were far from being drugged as the title would suggest. The title may more appropriately refer to the Americans in the war, and to Helen, who refuses to leave Vietnam, wanting more and more of the heady war experience, reluctant to leave and let go.

Easy to read, I thought the writing could have been more tightly edited, less wordy. It tends to ramble in its descriptions. It would have had a greater impact and punch if it were less so. The content though is first rate and gives the reader a deeper sense of those controversial years of the war.


Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I went through this phase one year when I was a kid when I only read Vietnam war books (this was in the '80s). I became so entrenched in the world of it all, and it's been a while since I visited this time period. Thanks for posting these!

Staci said...

My reading has rarely taken me to Vietnam and it is a country that I would like to visit in my fiction some day.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Sorry this one did not thrill you. I do have it on my shelves.

Harvee said...

Binbliophilebythesea: I admit I've read so much about this war that pure fiction about it doesn't seem to cut it for me. I have The Boat by Nam Le on my list to read. He was born in Vietnam; his stories aren't all about the war however.

Marie Cloutier said...

I haven't read this but it looks interesting to me. I havent read a lot about Vietnam and appreciate your thoughts here.

Suzanne Yester said...

Both of these books are sitting on my shelf because they also sounded so interesting. Sorry that they didn't catch your attention. But thanks for sharing!

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