Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Book: The Lotus Eaters
Author: Tatjana Soli
Recommended To: Vietnam enthusiasts, people who like strong female characters.
The Lotus Eaters chronicles the life of Helen, a female war photographer who arrives in Vietnam in 1963 and who ends up staying the entire war.
I haven't read a book this well written in months, and this even surpasses J.K. Rowling's A Casual Vacancy, in intensity and excellence.
The book begins at the end of the war, when Helen and her husband Linh are trying to escape Siagon with the last of the American soldiers and journalists. Helen puts her seriously injured husband Linh onto a helicopter and decides to stay in Vietnam to "witness the end." Then, the story backtracks to Helen's life in Vietnam, her dangerous missions taking photos of the war, her forays into the combat zones and her continuous uphill climb as one of the only female photojournalists in Vietnam.
The book has beautiful language and description. You can feel the humidity, danger and tension, especially in the first scenes of the book when Helen is trying to get papers for her Vietnamese husband and escape to the American Embassy. This book is alive in ways that I have not yet experienced this year. It grips you and it drags you along until as a reader you are deeply immersed in the Vietnamese culture and the danger of the Vietnam war.
I thought this was an enormously beautiful novel that was fairly fast-paced. Apparently this is Soli's first work of fiction and the notes at the end reference about a dozen books that she read and researched before writing the novel. I don't typically read historical fiction about the Vietnam era, so I can't comment on the accuracy of this book, but I certainly enjoyed it and recommend it to anyone looking for an excellent read.