Jan 20, 2011

Book Review: The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

Title: The Lotus Eaters: A Novel
Author: Tatjana Soli
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (December 21, 2010)
Genre: fiction
Source:  TLC Book Tours

Summary: The novel is set during the Vietnam War, a combination of adventure, romance and history, with some subtle political commentary. Helen, an American photographer working for Life magazine, has decided to stay in Saigon at the end of the war with wounded fellow photographer, Linh, even though the victorious North Vietnamese soldiers are entering the city and there is danger for Americans and South Vietnamese alike.

The book takes us in flashbacks to Helen's arrival in Vietnam 10 years earlier as a photographer, her doomed love affair with fellow photographer Sam Darrow, and her subsequent relationship with Linh, another photographer who is a former North Vietnamese defector to the south.

Comments: Two love stories, the first due to the urgency and stress of war, and the second because of proximity and shared experiences. In the beginning, Helen relies on Darrow for information and to help her as a photographer of the war. Her love for Linh comes later, after more time and experience in Vietnam. 
The book is also a commentary on the Vietnam War, through stories about the soldiers, their skirmishes, relationships with the Vietnamese, positive and negative. I assume they are based on the the author's research on real events.

The monk shook his head and poured tea.
"He is only a simple monk. He is afraid for the Westerners, that you will lose your way by interfering with Vietnam's destiny. (ch. 9)
Title, 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.

Objective rating: 4.25 out of 5. 

Book Giveaway: Click here to read an interview with the author and to enter the book giveaway.

Book tour stops: http://tlcbooktours.com/

© Harvee Lau 2011


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Great to read this excellent review and see you enjoyed this one. It is on my shelves.

LisaMM said...

Great review. I agree with your point about how the title referred to the American journalists. They seemed addicted to the war. Thanks so much for being on the tour!

Anna said...

I loved this book, and I'm glad to see you rated it highly. I thought The Lotus Eaters was a perfect title for the book. We've linked to your review on War Through the Generations.

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