Showing posts with label Tatjana Soli. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tatjana Soli. Show all posts

Feb 20, 2015

Book Review: THE LAST GOOD PARADISE by Tatjana Soli

The Friday 56: *Grab a book, any book. *Turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader  *Find any sentence, (or few, just don't spoil it) that grabs you. *Post it. *Add your (url) post in Linky at Freda's Voice. Also visit Book Beginnings at Rose City Reader.

The Last Good Paradise by Tatjana Soli, published February 10, 2015; St. Martin's Press.

Book beginning: 
A 7.1 tremor had been felt throughout the Southland that morning, the epicenter somewhere out in the hinterlands of Lancaster, unnerving residents, but the offices of Flask, Flask, Gardiner, Bulkington, Bartleby, and Peleg were seemingly immune. Ten floors up in the sybaritic conference room,the air conditioner purred; the air was filtered, ionized, and subtly scented of cedar. Ann looked out the plate glass windows at the expansive, gaseous hills of West Los Angeles as a contemplative might look out of her meditation temple. Smoke was opouring from a Spanish Colonial Revival house halfway up a nearby manicured hill, and as she watched, toylike, candy-colored fire engines curled up the narrow canyon roads to put it out. The glass was proofed; no siren sound reached them.
Page 56: 
There was always the unforeseen lurking. What if she and Richard drowned or got eaten by sharks? What if they were killed for the money? 
My comments: The above scenario in Los Angeles is what Ann, junior partner in a law firm, wants so desperately to escape. When her husband Richard and his business partner, Javi, must use all of their and her hard-won savings/earnings to pay Javi's exwife in her bid for extra alimony, Ann and Richard decide at the last minute to literally take their money and run, before creditors can withdraw the funds from their bank account. The couple flee the country with their money, leaving Javi to face his own music, and the two end up in a resort on a remote island in the South Pacific, where they however face new and challenging situations.

Interesting premise - a new life in paradise, remote and private. Complications ensue with the manager of the resort and with the other tourists, however, and the plot becomes complex and a bit complicated. I personallyl prefer more streamlined storytelling, but this is an entertaining escape into a Gaugin like environment, but one with problems nevertheless.

Richly atmospheric, the novel will be enjoyed by armchair travelers and those who love stories that show how complicated personal problems can unfold and yet be satisfactorily resolved.

Objective rating: 3.75/5

TATJANA SOLI is a novelist and short story writer. Her New York Times bestselling debut novel, The Lotus Eaters, was the winner of the James Tait Black Prize, a New York Times Notable Book, and a finalist for the LA Times Book Award. Her second novel The Forgetting Tree was also a New York Times Notable book . Her stories have appeared in Zyzzyva, Boulevard, and The Sun, and have been listed in Best American Short Stories. She lives with her husband in Southern California.

Visit TLC Book Tours for other reviews of the book and a list of tour stops. 
Thanks to TLC and the author for an ARE of this book for review.

Jan 21, 2011

Author Interview and Book Giveaway: Tatjana Soli, author of The Lotus Eaters

Author Tatjana Soli, author, discusses her novel about photographers and what they experienced covering the Vietnam War, in the New York Times bestseller, The Lotus Eaters: A Novel.

Welcome, Tatjana.

Q:  Can you tell us about the research you made in order to write the book? How long did it take and what are the different things you had to do?

Tatjana:  I had been obsessed with the war for a very long time in terms of understanding it for myself. I had read all the major works of fiction and journalism that are considered important, seen all the movies and documentaries. But when I decided that I would tackle writing about the war, I really immersed myself in non-fiction because it was absolutely essential to get the details right — so many people have experienced the war first-hand and it had to be credible to them.

That said, the factual history was only the starting point. As intellectually interesting as it might be, as a storyteller, you need to bring the experience to your reader— that is paramount. You need to give facts meaning, otherwise the scale of the pain and destruction in war become numbing. So part of this was also learning about the long history of Vietnam, how the culture was structured, who the people are, in order to have a sense of what was destroyed.

I think I spent about a year and a half taking notes, living out this experience in my imagination. Although ultimately, little of it made its way into the book, I studied aspects of Vietnam the way an actor does sense-memory exercises: I ate the food, listened to the music, read poetry, even tried in my miserable way to learn a little of the language. A tonal language that is beyond difficult. If nothing else, it kept the novel alive for me while I was writing it.

Q: What made you become interested in the Vietnam War, this period of history?

My mother and I lived on Ford Ord military base for two years in the late sixties, so the military experience had imprinted itself on me although I was a young child. I had frightening memories and had this real longing to understand what had happened. I think in the bigger context, Vietnam can stand in for all wars, especially conflicts that we are in today. So it is a remarkably topical subject at this moment in our history. I was also fascinated by the huge role journalists played in exposing the lies we were being told about the war, how they turned public opinion. Before Vietnam, much war coverage was in the service of boosterism, of making the public patriotic and supportive of the wars we were engaged in.

Q: The war is controversial. How do you feel about it, looking back in history? Did your research change your mind about how you felt before writing the book?

When I started to write the book, my memories of the pain endured by our soldiers and their families was really foremost in my mind. Helen’s family has been torn apart by her father and brother dying in two different wars. But as I learned more about Vietnam, my frame of reference expanded. We lost 58,000 soldiers and another 9,000 veterans to suicide in the five years after the war. I emphasize that because the war destroyed so many lives, even if they survived combat. A huge toll. Not to mention the disservice done to many of the returning soldiers who were made into scapegoats for an unpopular war. But the Vietnamese lost 1.5 million combatants; 4 million civilians were killed. The only war that the US was similarly affected by was the Civil War. Every Vietnamese family suffered loss; their lands were destroyed. For me this knowledge cured some of the myopia that is natural when dealing with people and cultures that you don’t know. Vietnam was more than just a blank battlefield. The war was more than just an American tragedy.

Q:  Are you currently working on another book?

I have finished a second novel that will be published in 2012. A big departure from The Lotus Eaters, it is set in contemporary Southern California, on a citrus ranch, and involves a ranching woman and a girl who she hires to take care of her. I like to describe it as a novel involving two very dangerous female characters, an orange grove, and voodoo.

Q: How can readers reach you?

Through my website, or I love to hear from readers, and I also am open to speaking to book clubs, either in person if local to Southern California, or by phone or Skype.

Tatjani's website is A novelist and award-winning short story writer born in Austria, she attended Stanford University and the Warren Wilson MFA Program. She lives in California and teaches through the Gotham Writers’ Workshop.

(What is the book about? Click on the link for my review of The Lotus Eaters)

The Lotus Eaters: A NovelBook Giveaway: The publisher has agreed to give away a copy of The Lotus Eaters: A Novel to readers of each TLC book tour participant. U.S. residents only, no P.O. boxes, please.

To enter, leave a comment on what interested you about the book review below or about Tatjana's discussion, and include your email address! The giveaway will run through Feb. 15. The book will be sent through TLC by the publisher.

UPDATE: The giveaway winner is Suzanne of CT.

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:

© Harvee Lau 2011