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Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam Reprint Edition

51 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0316159197
ISBN-10: 0316159190
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Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam + Vietnam: A History + A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Fitzgerald's Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning study of the Vietnam War remains essential reading 30 years after its initial publication. Fitzgerald's analysis differs from combat histories in that it presents the Vietnamese and Americans from a sociological point of view. This edition contains a new afterword in which Fitzgerald updates the story three decades after the American withdrawal.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From the Inside Flap

This is the prize winning work of the tragic collision between two cultures - the Vietnamese and the American. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books; Reprint edition (July 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316159190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316159197
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #140,952 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 104 people found the following review helpful By Brian Leverenz on March 14, 2000
Format: Paperback
Like the Kipling saying, this book portrays the tragic collision of two cultures unable to understand one another. Arguing that American values of freedom, democracy and optimism were inconsistent with Vietnam's values, culture, and above all, its bloody history and essentially agrarian existence, the effort was doomed from the start. THe Vietnamese's sense of government, history,politics and even conflict is completely different from our own, as is their cultural tradition of ancestor worship and their belief in what constitutes effective government (i.e. the mandate of heaven) and we never took these differences into account. Whether this is the fault of the military or the U.S government is really irrelevant, either way it was a crucial factor in the tragedy. Fitzgerald's book is of course an incomplete picture of the reasons we failed there, but is one of the most important and overlooked. While other books focus on the flawed military strategy of endless bombing, destruction and body counts, or the corruption of both Vietnamese regimes, or the arogance of the US military establishment, this book hones in on the cultural issue. Its also one of the best written books on the subject, regardless of the message, one written with passion and insight, and one that clearly shows that there are parts of the world that operated and still operate very differently from what we understand. While the world might be glowing with the promise of democracy i nthe new milennium, in the 60's and 70's it was still a place where ideological differences could sink even the best-intentioned efforts. Highly recommended, along with The Best and the Brightest, A Bright Shining Lie, and Stanley Karnow's Vietnam. This quartet of books would give you the most complete picture of the war and its history.
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114 of 141 people found the following review helpful By Samuel Freeman on December 7, 2000
Format: Paperback
Twenty-eight years after publication, and 25 after the war's end, Fire in the Lake remains one of the very best books on the Viet Nam war. Sadly, Americans are woefully ignorant of the rest of the world. We have little real knowledge of our own history; but for the rest of the world's history and culture, we have neither knowledge nor regarad. We do not even do the Vietnamese people the courtesy of respecting the name of their country--Viet Nam, not Vietnam; Sai Gon, not Saigon. FitzGerald helps to correct some of this ignorance and arrogance. She begins examining the U.S. in Viet Nam from the perspective of Vietnamese history and culture; and in the process, demonstrating the tenacity and courage of the Vietnamese people, as well as their determination to rid themselves of any foreign invaders, even if, as with the Chinese, it takes 1,000 years. Another great strength of FitzGerald's book is, with her attention to Viet Nam's history and culture and their 20th century struggle against the French, she demonstrates, in an almost matter of fact way, a fundamental tenent of U.S. foreign policy which has been repeated numerous times in the post World War II era. That central tenent is to support thugs over patriots, to elevate to power those who will sell out their people for 30 pieces of silver rather than work with those committed to the well being of their people. Ho Chi Minh was our ally during WWII; his hero was Thomas Jefferson, not Karl Marx or Stalin. He was very pro-American; yet he was a nationalist and a patriot first, which meant, from the perspective of the U.S., he was not only unreliable, but someone who had to be destroyed. And though FitzGerald does not carry her analysis beyond Viet Nam, an informed or a curious reader quickly can draw the parallels between U.S.Read more ›
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38 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Mark Thomas ( on April 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
In my opinion, this work is a must read for anyone interested in studying American and Western involvement in Vietnam. This book studies the influence and power Ho Chi Minh and suggests that the US ignored the will of the Vietnamese people, who looked to Ho as 18th century Americans looked to George Washington - as the acknowledged leader of their country.
By supporting dummy regimes that encouraged Western Market Capitalism, but did not have the support of the Vietnamese population, America failed to learn from the mistakes of the French and ended up backing the losing side in the Vietnamese civil war.
Fitzgerald's work is an articulate study of Vietnamese society and culture. "Fire In the Lake" elucidates the problems with America's "black and white" assessment of Cold War International Politics and also underscores our inability to look at things from a perspective other than our own.
A significant piece of work!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John P. Jones III TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 21, 2013
Format: Paperback
…Revolution as in change in society. Frances Fitzgerald explains that the title for her book comes from the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes, and means the image of revolution. It is a most apt title, given the enormous changes that Vietnam has gone through. Fitzgerald is a journalist, with the learning of an academic scholar, as well as a well-read person. She stayed in Vietnam for a number of months in 1966, and was strongly influenced by Paul Mus, a French scholar who had grown up in Vietnam, and to whom she dedicated this book. It is the journalist’s proverbial “first draft of history.” It was published in 1972, three years before the end of the American war in Vietnam. She won the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. For a “first draft,” she got a lot of things right, including the inevitable conclusion three years later.

Though the first major book by an American on America in Vietnam, it remains a classic, and in my opinion, certainly one of the best ten books produced to date. It is 600 pages long, and 90% of the book occurs before the end of the Tet offensive. The bibliography is impressive, with some 200 plus entries. Ah, that our leadership had only read a tenth of those references. Even though I had spent a year in Vietnam prior to this book’s publication, much was “news” to me, for example, the Cao Dai sect that flourished near Tay Ninh. And, of course, much of her writing strongly resonated with my experience: “But the American officials in supporting the Saigon government insisted that they were defending ‘freedom and democracy’ in Asia. They left the GIs to discover that the Vietnamese did not fit into their experience of either ‘communist’ or ‘democrats.’ Under different circumstances this invincible ignorance…” Amen, from the amen corner.
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