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This review is from: Embers of War: The Fall of an Empire and the Making of America's Vietnam (Hardcover)
This is a phenomenal book, both in the scope of its scholarship and the ease of its reading. One of the strong points of the book is the balanced and respectful approach to all of the participants in the story. Works of History which demonize the players have a cartoon quality. This book respects the richness of human existence and its complex, multivalent quality.
Individual players are given brief introductions that give us a feel for who they were. There are no caricatures. All of the players are seen as human beings, with strengths and weaknesses. Particular events of importance, such as the battle of Dien Bien Phu, are given careful attention, letting the events unfold with novelistic power.
The book is immensely readable; the prose flows and carries the reader along. The story described in the book is obviously important, both in terms of (1) understanding American history after World War II and (2) for the lessons that can be gleaned from the collapse of colonialism and America's expansion of its power. The book does not preach, but lets the reader reach his or her own conclusions from the rich, complex history that unfolds in its pages.
This is an outstanding work of history that is exceptionally well written. The story itself is powerful. Like a Greek tragedy, we see each step that leads to the ultimate tragedy. Anyone interested in how America came to be entangled in Vietnam should read this book. Anyone interested in understanding the pitfalls of a foreign policy that ignores complex, multifaceted local realities, would benefit as well.