Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam's Madame Nhu Hardcover – September 24, 2013
Customers who bought this item also bought
Customers who viewed this item also viewed
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
She was an enigma, extremely powerful in her heyday but almost forgotten since then: Madame Nhu, wife to the brother of the president of South Vietnam and in practical terms the first lady, a woman small of stature but hugely influential, whose participation in events preceding the 1963 coup that saw her own husband and brother-in-law executed contributed directly to the escalation of the war in Vietnam and to the radical alteration of the American and Vietnamese political and social landscapes. Based on Madame Nhu’s unpublished memoirs and on personal interviews with the woman known as the Dragon Lady, the book restores Madame Nhu to her proper place in history, as a ruthless and brilliant woman without whose manipulations the war in Vietnam might have turned out very differently. Madame Nhu, who died in 2011, spent more than 40 years (roughly the second half of her life) living far out of the public eye; this frequently surprising book brings its subject back from exile. --David Pitt
A fascinating portrait of this polarizing figure [a] fair-minded and readable look at Madame Nhu and her prominent role in the early years of the Vietnam War This book performs an especially valuable service to readers who want to understand why the U.S. sometimes stumbles in foreign affairs .The book benefits from a firm understanding of Vietnamese traditions. In the end, Demery admits that she ultimately became Madame Nhu's "friend," an admission that makes the reader admire the biographer even more for being so clear-eyed about her subject's flaws.”
San Francisco Chronicle
Demery succeeds in painting such a nuanced picture of this powerful woman that by the time we reach Madame Nhu's 1963 U.S. press tour, we can sympathize with her desire to defend her country Finding the Dragon Lady' is a brave book. Demery realized that I had been handed the chance to breathe some life into the remote, exotic place in history to which she had been assigned,' and she took that opportunity to push beyond the conventional understanding of this painful and polarizing era. It's a testament to her deep knowledge of Vietnamese and American culture that she leaves us wondering what might have been.”
Engagingly provocative Smart and well-researched, Demery's biography offers insight into both an intriguing figure and the complicated historical moment with which she became eternally identified. A welcome addition to the literature on Vietnam.”
The book restores Madame Nhu to her proper place in history, as a ruthless and brilliant woman without whose manipulations the war in Vietnam might have turned out very differently this frequently surprising book brings its subject back from exile.”
Deeply intriguing...one hell of a story.”
Alexia Nader, Kirkus Reviews
Finding the Dragon Lady stands out from most biographies of political leaders: It emphasizes, rather than conceals, the competing narratives of an unreliable and manipulative subject It was ultimately Demery's candid way of writing and structuring her biography that won her the battle with her subject. Her book reveals the many masks Madame Nhu wore to guard herself against the public (and even the author), and gives stark glimpses of the woman underneath.”
Illuminating shed[s] light on one of the country's most controversial figures.”
Craig R. Whitney, Vietnam War correspondent and author of Living with Guns
In the early days of America's engagement in Vietnam, no one played a greater role than Madame Nhu in shaping the Saigon regime's anti-Communist fervor. But who was the Dragon Lady, really? This superb portrait reveals her self-doubts, conveys the fierce persona she developed to overcome them, and explains how her zealotry doomed the regime and condemned her to a life in exile.”
David Lamb, author, Vietnam, Now: A Reporter Returns
Here is the last untold story of the Vietnam war, the riveting, intimate and ultimately tragic profile of Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, South Vietnam's unofficial First Lady whose political power and ruthlessness earned her the nickname The Dragon Lady. In her life, which ended in exile and isolation in 2011, are the seeds of America's ill-fated military involvement in Vietnam. Monique Demery spent ten years tracking down the elusive Dragon Lady. Her diligence has produced a laudatory book that is at once scholarly and as readable as a good mystery.”
Elizabeth Becker, author of When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge
Even those familiar with the history of Vietnam will be astonished at the bizarre case of Madame Nhu. Monique Demery tracks down the original Vietnamese 'Dragon Lady' who confesses to weaknesses and heartbreak but refuses to take responsibility for her role in the war that ruined so many lives in her country and ours.”
Robert K. Brigham, Shirley Ecker Boskey Professor of History and International Relations at Vassar College
Finding the Dragon Lady is a truly monumental achievement. Demery has vividly captured the life and times of one of Vietnam's most intriguing figures. Beautifully told, and exhaustively researched in French, Vietnamese, and American sourcesincluding interviews with Madame NhuDemery's book is now the standard for understanding the cultural politics of South Vietnam's first family.”
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
However, after the first few pages, my wife remarked: "Here it goes again, this woman was trying to fool another person into believing how saintly she was, the way she did you, Walter!"
Of course, she was flattered that the press had called her "The Dragon Lady", but, in reality, in her own words, she would have rather been referred to as "Santa Evita" because she wanted to be compared to, and remembered as, the Vietnamese Eva Peron.
She stood me up, too, more than once, a good ten years before she failed to show up at that church to meet you in Paris. The sad part is; you and I weren't the only persons whom she had successfully misled.
My relationship with Le Xuan was of a love-hate nature. I loved her for the efforts to empower the women of Vietnam and for her sense of style. I loved her even more when she spoke sweetly about putting my picture under her pillow each and every night - if I could believe it. But I also hated her for being so evil and condescending.
Her tale of cradling Le Thuy in her arms and proceeded to cross the bridge under fire accentuated a well-defined exclamation mark to the term "disgust". Nowhere in her story did she ever revealed that she had ran a high-class brothel in Cho Lon - the Chinatown of Saigon - where foreign dignitaries' needs were catered to, and where secret microphones and cameras were well hidden from the unsuspecting guests. Also, nowhere did she recall the story of how she had lost her virginity at age 17 to an university student when she was in Ha Noi.
Worse yet, she painted a final picture of her being a not-well-to-do woman of old age, but in reality, her investments at the former Merrill-Lynch were almost equal to the GDPs of some countries on the African continent.
Again, congratulations on a project which deserves many accolades, Monique.
If this is history we have to look at the author’s sources. Indisputably unique are Monique Demery’s person-to-person encounters with the Dragon Lady, although even that was mostly over the phone. However the haul of data does not amount to much after so much time, hope and effort had been expended. Demery had high expectations for Mme Nhu’s memoir, and so had I until it finally turned up – well-nigh unintelligible, it seems. The historian has had to rely on sources that had been public property for decades after all. It appears that there is also a bit of a mystery here that does not even get mentioned. Mme Nhu’s children claimed to have edited some memoir of their mother’s too, and apparently something similar is or was located in Vietnam. Are these all different versions of the same thing, or not? Are they simply beneath notice and comment? There is also a private diary that seems to have survived intact. This records the rather sad and unfulfilled marriage to Ngo Dinh Nhu, and there are tantalising allusions to three other men, identified only by one initial each. Not unreasonably, Mme Demery links this material to the puritanical laws that Mme Nhu pushed through over the doubts felt by her husband and his brother Ngo Dinh Diem, president of South Vietnam.
Those laws, plus her general pushiness and hunger for her own way, were mainly what got the Dragon Lady her sobriquet and her publicity. So how much real difference was she making to the march of events? Kennedy apparently saw her hand in every setback to his Vietnam policy. My own sense of the matter is that this may have been as much petulance on his part as anything else. The South Vietnamese administration was going to the proverbial destination in a handcart, and scapegoats were accordingly sought. As usual, journalists were found to be disloyal and unpatriotic for calling a spade a spade, thereby actually causing the crises they were merely reporting. As in later conflicts that have not gone to plan, accusations flew that the commentators were not ‘giving the positive side.’ To that charge, and to those who made it, the answer has always seemed to me to be ‘Tell the positive bits yourself: see what they amount to when you do.’ Similarly Mme Nhu was getting things done her way, but all in pursuit of saving her country from communism. That was the American objective too, it was not working out very well, so the reason for that had to be someone else’s fault. Was Mme Nhu actually making things worse? Maybe she was, for all I can tell. Did the policy stand an earthly chance of success anyhow? Not to my way of thinking, and this author is too canny to commit herself explicitly on that matter. She doesn’t preach, but I don’t think her narrative can be interpreted in very many different ways.
The ancient Greeks had a three-stage sequence of tragic events consisting of Hubris or Self-aggrandisement, Ate or Self-delusion, and Nemesis or Self-destruction. Plus ca change. President Johnson declared that he did not want to be the president who allowed Indo-China to go the way of the People’s Republic. It was for America, one gathers, to say how other countries sorted out their affairs. The doctrine of the ‘domino theory’, according to which communism was some unified force marching in implacable lockstep to crush the Free World, was taken as axiomatic. Many years later, when Robert McNamara visited Vietnam and told his hosts how he had seen their fate as becoming vassals of China, they asked him ‘Mr McNamara, have you never read a history book?’ The thought that other nations did not see things America’s way met with blank incomprehension, and it might have seemed treason to come to an accommodation with revolutionary forces (as Kennedy is suspected of having intended) that really had, for totally incomprehensible reasons, genuine popular backing in their own sovereign nations
Well, we know what happened to South Vietnam, and some of us at least can see what made any other outcome unlikely. We have not yet been ground down under the iron heel of communism, it doesn’t look like we will, and indeed it never did if we had got our blinkers off. So where was Mme Nhu in such a narrative? Not so much a dragon as a pretty dragonfly skimming the surface, I’d say.