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A Dangerous Friend Audio, Cassette – August, 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Ward Just, a former war correspondent, uses his intimate knowledge of Vietnam to advantage in this exploration of America's tangled relations with that small Southeast Asian country. Set in 1965, the last year that civilians were in control of foreign intervention, A Dangerous Friend chronicles the lives of a small band of aid workers who purport to administer financial and technical assistance to the Vietnamese; unknown to most, however, the Llewellyn Group is actually covertly linked to the Pentagon. Though told by a nameless narrator, the protagonist of this story is Sydney Parade, an idealistic American who abandons wife and child in order to help bring democracy to the third world:
We worked harder than we had ever worked in our lives, or would ever work again. We were drunk on work. Work was passion. We were in it for the long haul, and from the beginning we swam upstream.
Sydney arrives in Vietnam filled with altruistic purpose, but all too soon he finds himself up to his neck in dangerous intrigue. The head of the Llewellyn Group, Dicky Rostok, is trolling for information, and he uses Sydney's connections with a French planter and his American-born wife to further his own agenda. Despite the best of intentions, Sydney unwittingly becomes the source of information that will eventually lead to death, betrayal, and ruin. In A Dangerous Friend Ward Just conveys the depth of America's misunderstanding of the situation in Vietnam even as he illustrates how idealism unleavened by knowledge can be a perilous thing, indeed. --Alix Wilber --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

With the appearance of his 12th novel, former journalist (and Vietnam reporter) Just (Echo House) has reason to be proud of the books he has produced, all of them thoughtful, judicious commentaries on the ironies inherent in politics, culture and human relationships. This trenchant work, set in 1965 Vietnam as the U.S. is inching toward full-scale war, may prove to be his most significant; certainly, it reflects with quiet understatement one of the central moral issues of our century. Its protagonist, Sydney Parade, is emblematic of the idealistic, dangerously na?ve Americans who felt it their mission to bring democracy to Southeast Asia. Recruited by Dicky RostokAthe brash, arrogant head of the Llewellyn Group, a foundation that purports to administer financial aid and technical assistance to Vietnam but is in reality a covert arm of Pentagon policyASydney leaves his wife and daughter in Darien, Conn., and travels to a country town near Saigon. Sydney is unaware of his vast ignorance of Vietnamese culture and political reality, but after he becomes involved with French expatriate and rubber plantation owner Claude Armand and his wife, Dede, a native Chicagoan, Sydney gradually loses his hubris. Eventually, he realizes that the American goal of "nation building" in Vietnam is at best a tragic delusion and at worst a cynical grasp at power. Almost accidentally, Sydney becomes the conduit for information about a U.S. Army captain captured by the VC. Ensuing events result in the annihilation of a village of innocent Vietnamese, betrayal of the Armands and the ruin of the one truly moral member of the Llewellyn staff. In spite of his good intentions, Sydney has become, as Dede Armand says, "a dangerous friend." Just gives readers an incisive vision of America's end of innocence. He does so with strongly limned characters who do not forfeit their individuality even as they are overwhelmed by history. Author tour.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Audio Literature; NEW edition (August 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787122688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787122683
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 4.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,335,982 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

WARD JUST is the author of fifteen previous novels, including the National Book Award finalist Echo House, A Dangerous Friend, winner of the James Fenimore Cooper Prize for fiction from the Society of American Historians, and An Unfinished Season, winner of the Chicago Tribune Heartland Award and a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It's a shame that this novel wasn't a finalist for the National Book Award this year. It deserves the honor. A Dangerous Friend is utterly original in its portrait of the early years of American intervention in Vietnam. Ward Just perfectly captures the innocence, avarice, hubris, ignorance, and paranoia of the time. He liberates a genre that is, perhaps, exhausted, and at the very least, well-defined. A war novel without the physical violence (although there's plenty of the emotional kind), A Dangerous Friend captures the fine (sometimes irrelevent) distinctions between military and civilian, colonist and native, hero and villain. Simply, powerfully superb.
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Format: Hardcover
A subtle, perfectly nuanced depiction of the early days of the Vietnam war. The tension of combat lingers through the book, but the bombings and firefights are largely kept to the background. What Ward Just creates is an authentic story of the civilians, soldiers and bureaucrats who laid the foundation for a war that would eventually become a catastrophic failure for the United States.
Just does an excellent job of showing the complexity of Vietnam; the bureaucrats vs the military, the new American imperialists vs the old French colonialists, nation-building vs firebombing.
The book centers around Sydney Parade, a sociologist sent to Vietnam to work with a somewhat mysterious government agency, the Llewellyn group, which is charged with collecting information and winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese though community projects. He is tasked with winning the cooperation of a French rubber planter and his American wife, relics of French colonialism who are living "between the lines" in an effort to avoid choosing sides and therefore becoming involved.
"We went to Vietnam because we wanted to." Explains the narrator. "We were not drafted. We were encouraged to volunteer and if our applications were denied, we applied again." Just captures the optimism, confusion, bureacracy, and overconfidence of America's early days in Vietnam, and we soon get a glimpse of the impending disillusionment.
Just covered the Vietnam war as a correspondent, and his first-hand familiarity with the conflict shows. An excellent novel.
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Format: Paperback
"A Dangerous Friend" is the second best novel of its type, but that is high praise indeed, since it is only edged out by Graham Greene's "The Quiet American." Just's prose is a joy to read. He was a first-rate journalist in his younger days, and it shows. His economy with words and syntax is a marvel. Not a word is wasted, not a sentence tortured. Beyond that, the story is gripping and poignant. Just, like Greene before him, re-creates Vietnam on the page in a way that makes it startlingly real. The characters not only fulfill their symbolic function but also engage the reader on a human level. Finally, this is the book that makes you really feel what America did in Vietnam, as the U.S. is clearly the "Dangerous Friend" of the title.
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Format: Hardcover
The beauty of this novel is the understated way in which it is told.
I'd been meaning to read this book since it first came out last year and finally sat down with it over the weekend ... and couldn't put it down. In just a spare 256 pages, Ward Just recreates the fallen splendor of colonial Vietnam at the start of the conflict and examines the opposing philosophies of those caught in the gathering maelstrom - the American government presence there to provide "humanitarian" aid and support the rapidly diminishing infrastructure and the expatriate colonials who have lived there for years in relative calm and peace who are unwilling to give up what they call home for the sake of political interventionists who, they believe, have little relevance on their lives.
It's a delicate book but one that gives you pause to think. Ward Just is an verbal wizard at providing descriptions of climate and landscape. His characters are finely drawn and subtle (one might almost say understated) and the plot, while not particularly dramatic in the more traditional sense, evolves in such a way the reader knows something terrible is going to happen because the inevitability is there.
In some ways, this book reminded me of the French film done several years ago, "Indochine", with Catherine Deneuve. While the film is set in the 30's and chronicles the start of the Communist conflict in Vietnam, it portrays a similar crisis of conscience between the old established colonial point of view and the rapidly changing tides of modern history.
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Format: Hardcover
Just's book is beautifully written and organized. You know what happens to the principle characters within the initial pages, while the rest of the book is dedicated to telling us why those people we've just met are important. Sydney Parade, with the best of all intentions, inadvertently causes a horrible chain of events, making him the title character, the "dangerous friend." Comparisons must be made to Greene's "The Quiet American," another book which focuses upon the innocence of a single character to illustrate the overall naivete of a nation's efforts. We Americans love to believe that simple optimism, confidence and determination will win the day. As Parade -- and America -- learned, there are several more factors involved.
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