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The Lotus Eaters Hardcover – March 30, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Bookmarks Magazine

While the horrors of war are never far from the surface, the love stories, as well as Helen's personal evolution, lie at the center of The Lotus Eaters. (A few critics compared Helen's wartime experience to the rush experienced by characters in the Academy Award–winning The Hurt Locker, and the title refers to the lotus eaters who, in Greek mythology, become addicted to the opiate.) Soli's visceral writing captures an alluring, dangerous country, and she excels at conveying the intricacies of war-torn lives. A few critics disagreed about the centrality of the romance and the characterizations, but overall, they had little but high praise for the work. "If you've never read a novel about the Vietnam War, this could be the book for you," concluded the Dallas Morning News.

From Booklist

Soli’s debut revolves around three characters whose lives are affected by the Vietnam War. Helen Adams comes to Vietnam in the hopes of documenting the combat that took her brother from her. She immediately attracts the attention of the male journalists in the region, and quickly falls into an affair with the grizzled but darkly charismatic war photographer Sam Darrow. As Helen starts to make her own way as a photographer in Vietnam, drawing as much attention for her gender as for her work, Darrow sends her his Vietnamese assistant, Linh, a reluctant soldier who deserted the SVA in the wake of his wife’s death. While Linh wants nothing more than to escape the war, Darrow and Helen are consumed by it, unable to leave until the inevitable tragedy strikes. The strength here is in Soli’s vivid, beautiful depiction of war-torn Vietnam, from the dangers of the field, where death can be a single step away, to the emptiness of the Saigon streets in the final days of the American evacuation. --Kristine Huntley

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1 edition (March 30, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312611579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312611576
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (222 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #406,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Tatjana Soli is a novelist and short story writer. Her bestselling debut novel, The Lotus Eaters, winner of the James Tait Black Prize, was a New York Times Notable Book for 2010, and finalist for the LA Times Book Award among other honors. Her second book, The Forgetting Tree, is a New York Times Notable Book for 2012. Her stories have appeared in Zyzzyva, Boulevard, and The Sun. Her work has been twice listed in the 100 Distinguished Stories in Best American Short Stories. She lives with her husband in Southern California.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

204 of 215 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Newell VINE VOICE on March 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
So much has been written about the Viet Nam era, and now along comes author Tatjana Soli with the evident intention of writing a "great" novel about these times.

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.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Carrie Kitzmiller on April 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Helen Adams is a photojournalist in Vietnam - one of the only women covering actual combat, recon, and rescue assignments. She comes to Vietnam as an idealistic college student, determined to make a name for herself, tell the story of the war - and discover the truth of her brother's death in country. During her years in Vietnam, Helen will learn to love two completely different men - and will learn that the true human cost of war is nothing that can be captured in numbers or photographs.

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.
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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful By G. Tewari on April 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
When I read a book that keeps me enthralled to the final page, that is so absorbing I have to tear myself away from it, I find myself amazed (and envious) that anyone can be so gifted. That's how I felt after reading The Lotus Eaters.

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.
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