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The Lotus Eaters Hardcover – March 30, 2010
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The funny thing is that, against all odds, she has succeeded in doing so, at least up to a certain point.
I lived through the Viet Nam era through my teens and into my twenties. Author Soli brings back a lot of memories, though not necessarily good ones; but she captures the spirit of the era with an uncanny accuracy--- and yet as nearly as I can tell (biographical information is sparse) she did not herself live through those days. Her research must have been superb and she must have talked with many a Viet Nam veteran, Viet Nam refugee, and many others besides.
She shows us Viet Nam as it really was, the good and the bad; she shows us American soldiers as they really were: mostly young and scared and far from home, yet capable of great bravery and nobility as well as the base acts associated with soldiers from time immemorial.
This is not an anti-war book per se, although it shows the horrors of war. The perspective of the book is balanced. Viet Nam and the Vietnamese are bathed in the light of realism, just as are Americans. The book asks us to sympathize with the plight of the Vietnamese, and who cannot? Yet we sympathize with the Americans as well as the war grinds on, becoming hopeless and eventually, lost.
Who can forget among those who lived through those days the sight of the Communist flag flying from the American embassy at the fall of Saigon in April, 1975? The author has us live--- or relive-- that infamous day, and much more.Read more ›
In The Lotus Eaters, the reader experiences the war in Vietnam through the eyes of Helen, and we watch as her idealism is eroded, bit by bit, each piece representing a person she has lost or seen killed. At first finding the American soldiers she accompanies and photographs to be her personal protectors and heroes, she begins to see the way war changes a man until he loses his humanity, and she loses her trust in her country and the military. She is drawn to the experienced photographer Sam Darrow, and afraid of the obsession she detects in him, yet unable to prevent the same obsession from taking hold in her own life.
Ms. Soli has written a devastatingly true novel - not true in the sense that it is based on a real person - but true in that it is so real and authentic that the experience of reading it is like submerging yourself in Helen's experiences. She writes in uneven prose - gorgeous descriptive sentences interspersed with jagged fragments - so that the reader is left feeling restless, unsettled, and unsure. The journey that Helen takes from eager new journalist to jaded photographer almost hurt to read, and yet I couldn't stop until I knew what happened.Read more ›
Having attended my share of writing seminars, I realize you can't really soar as a writer until you have truly mastered the craft; however, some writers seem to have talent that defies reason. A few paragraphs into this novel, I realized Tatjana Soli's powerful prose would haunt me.
I rarely read war novels, but the plot of this one intrigued me. The main protagonist is Helen Adams, a young American photojournalist covering the Vietnam War, and in Helen, Soli created a character that is complex, courageous, and real--yet flawed at the same time. Both Helen's father and brother were in the military, and her brother lost his life in a Special Forces operation in Vietnam. Helen always felt excluded by the camaraderie between her father and brother, and she is plagued by the sense of having something to prove. This lingering demon has driven her to being in the midst of this historic point and place in time, and Helen is willing to risk almost anything to get a defining, iconic photo. Many of the characters in this novel are addicted to war, like a drug that must repeatedly enter their bloodstream.
Within hours of arriving in Vietnam, Helen meets Sam, a legendary war photographer, and Linh, a Vietnamese photographer and translator. Sam becomes a mentor and guide to Helen, who quickly learns that women are not welcome in the macho world of war. Linh helps her to navigate the murky landscape of a dangerous country that is shifting on a regular basis.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Reading this while traveling in Vietnam made me better see the atmosphere of the country during the war, but the love story read false and detracted from the book. Read morePublished 22 days ago by Art Lover 27
Well written and captivating. So many facts, it is sometimes hard to realize it's fiction. Helps to have been there to appreciate it. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Ralph P. Eccles
Our book club gave the book a 9 rating. This is unheard of for our group.Published 4 months ago by Clare MacDonald