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Fire in the Lake: The Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam [Paperback]

by Frances FitzGerald
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 17, 2002 0316159190 978-0316159197
This landmark work, based on Frances FitzGerald's own research and travels, takes us inside Vietnam-into the traditional, ancestor-worshiping villages and the corrupt crowded cities, into the conflicts between Communists and anti-Communists, Catholics and Buddhists, generals More...
and monks -and reveals the country as seen through Vietnamese eyes. With a clarity and authority unrivaled by any book before it or since, Fire in the Lake shows how America utterly and tragically misinterpreted the realities of 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.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (July 17, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316159190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316159197
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #493,334 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
86 of 93 people found the following review helpful
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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105 of 128 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still One of the Very Best Books on Viet Nam December 7, 2000
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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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful
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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20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars revisit the recent past February 17, 2004
This has got to be one of the most important books i've read in my life. It's 1972 or 1973, i've finished several years of college, VietNam dominates our thinking and hangs like a cloud over life, i eventually joined the Army in Jan 1973. I had a favorite and influential uncle who served in VietNam 1966-1970, and as a result i read everything that i could on VietNam.
This was the very best. Cool writing, but passionate underneath, scholarly but committed, historical but with the present always in mind. The best of writing and reading. Now as i review the book it looks so dated, for those memories although vivid are aged. But the book is still well written history done during the time with a political goal in mind, to inform the American public about the real issues of VietNam. As such it still bears reading, students who want to learn what those years were all about, or their elders wanting to revisit and re-evaluate long forgotten passions. In either case, this is a good place to start. For history may appear to be gone, but it is carried by those who were around, and as the years past, held ready for the inquirer in books such as these.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars As a Vietnam veteran, this book was an eye opener.
I never could understand the political reasoning behind our shortcomings in our effort to help the Vietnamese people overcome communism. The book clearly describes why!
Published 3 months ago by George OKeefe
5.0 out of 5 stars The Image of Revolution…
…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. Read more
Published 6 months ago by John P. Jones III
4.0 out of 5 stars culture clash: usa vs vietnam
this was one of my initial studies of the vietnam war. it opened my eyes to the vietnam culture, and how difficult our situation there really was.
Published 6 months ago by Dolores J Audy
5.0 out of 5 stars A reprise reading
I first read this book in high school when I was doing a term paper on US involvement in Vietnam. For some reason, I felt a need to revisit it. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Joanne
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a textbook
This book gives an excellent background history to try to understand the American involvement in the war. It's loaded with information.
Published 7 months ago by Alex Cortez
5.0 out of 5 stars All Time Great
I read Fire in the Lake 25 years ago and it's still fixed in my mind! This book gave me a good understanding of Vietnam, the war, the culture, all of it. It is a timeless work. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Susan D. Miller
3.0 out of 5 stars Too much opinion.
A good read for someone wanting to know Vietnam's long term history and American history of a certain period. The author's opinion comes through too much.
Published 8 months ago by Linda Lingle
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Thorough analysis of the Vietnam war-- the culture and politics so woefully misunderstood by American leadership. Well written, the writing moves briskly.
Published 8 months ago by Funky Tickle Productions (Consignment)
5.0 out of 5 stars very good read
What I like most about this book is the writer's style. The author style makes the history of Viet Nam interesting in way that connects the past to the present. Read more
Published 11 months ago by lynch
5.0 out of 5 stars Eloquent and convincing examination of the Vietnamese side of the war
"Fire in the Lake" isn't one of those books you can easily jump into. I first tried reading it in high school, and couldn't get very far. Too difficult. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Eric Stimson
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