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.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $5.39 shipping
The Lotus Eaters: A Novel (Reading Group Gold) Paperback – December 21, 2010
|New from||Used from|
100 (Fiction) Books to Read in a Lifetime
AbeBooks.com, an Amazon Company, recommends a unique list of must-read books. Learn More on AbeBooks.com.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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 --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
Browse award-winning titles. See more
If you are a seller for this product, would you like to suggest updates through seller support?
Top Customer Reviews
The novel opens as the US troops are pulling out of Vietnam in 1975, and photojournalist Helen Adams is walking the streets of Saigon, feeling familiar and close to the city. She's been here over a decade, and is conflicted about leaving this now refugee town to go back to the states.
She walks to the apartment she shares with her lover and also photographer, Linh, a Vietnamese who has been injured. She is anxious to get him on the helicopter out of there, with the intention of joining him after she goes on one final shoot. However, she is eternally compelled by that one great shot, the photo that will secure her name in the history of war photographers. Her mentor and previous lover, Sam Darrow, had already done that, but, like Helen, was hooked to the place, the job, the dynamic of war photography.
Following the memorable scene after the Fall of Saigon, one that is canonized in the iconic image of South Vietnamese civilians desperately trying to secure a seat on one of the last American helicopters shuttling between Saigon rooftops and US navy ships off the coast of Vietnam (ahead of the arrival of the communist North-Vietnamese troops), the story starts at the beginning of Helen's life here, back in 1965. We follow her from the her complete innocence as a new photographer and survivor in a war-torn country; through the grisly action of capturing combat scenes on film; and in the inflamed and tender scenes of romance.
If I ever were to recommend one novel on the Vietnam War, this would be it. Unless you only want battle action and an all male cast--such as Matterhorn--I endorse this book as a poised and exquisite balance between love and war, and a love for the adrenaline-fueled action of war. As photographers, Helen, Sam, and Linh strive for the pictures that, in their individual quests, are a sort of anti-war document, an up close and personal edification of the fallout and consequences of what the US called a "skirmish." The inner conflicts of getting that award-winning shot subsumes the guilt and shame of potential exploitation and the desire to keep on following the next knell or knoll of death. What of their photography? Are they interpreters of violence? Are they, as Sam Darrow feared, making war "palatable"?
As Helen thought, "No getting around the ghoulishness of pouncing on tragedy with hungry eyes, snatching it away, glorying in its taking even among the most sympathetic `I got an incredible shot of a dead soldier/woman/child. A real tearjerker.' Afterward, film shot, they sat on the returning plane with a kind of postcoital shame, turning away from each other."
As a personal story, Soli beautifully braided, twisted, and integrated the photojournalists' addiction to war and their desperate kinds of love or lust, the difficult choices and bonds that form, bonds that may never work anywhere else but in the midst of battle scarred endurance. This is one of my favorite contemporary novels of all time. By the end of this visceral, emotionally electrifying novel, I forgot all thoughts of return to the real world. I wanted to stay with these characters. I was a lotus eater.
The story is both a war story and a love story. Helen loves first Sam Darrow and then, after his death, Linh, Darrow's assistant, a Vietnamese photographer with a shadowy past. As the novel progresses we see how Darrow and then Helen get so caught up in the war that they find it an obsession. It leaves scars on both of them. "The curse of photojournalism in a war was that a good picture necessitated the subject getting hurt or killed". How much can one witness without getting post-traumatic stress disorder or becoming immune to pain and suffering? The reader watches as Helen definitely suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder but continues on her mission to photograph every battle she can. As Darrow said, "Like an addict who had to keep upping the dose to maintain the same high, he found himself risking more and working harder for less return. . . .A steady loss of impact until violence became meaningless?"
It is interesting that "the Americans called it 'the Vietnam war', and the Vietnamese called it 'the American war' to differentiate it from 'the French war' that had come before it, although they referred to both wars as 'the Wars of Independence'. The novel is very educational in that the reader learns about the North Vietnamese, the South Vietnamese, Cambodia and the United States and what drives them all to engage in this fruitless and horrendous war.
Helen evolves from a naive young woman to a seasoned photojournalist who is marginally accepted by the men but has access to all their resources. She gets her pictures on the cover of Life magazine and she is known as the first woman combat photographer of the war. Once Saigon falls to the north, she puts the injured Linh on a helicopter and returns to the city to see the war to its end. "The end had arrived with a sputter, and although she had prayed for an end to the evils of war, now that it had arrived she couldn't deny being strangely brokenhearted. Like a snake swallowing its own tail, war created an appetite that could be fed only on more war." 'At first the war is exciting, then it's proficiency and endurance' along with "a camaraderie in war, an urgency of connection impossible to duplicate in regular life. She felt more human when life was on the edge."
The other side of the war is the tenderness and poignancy that death and suffering bring. "The dead enter the living, burrowed through the skin, floated through the blood, to come at last to rest in the heart." However, like the lotus eaters in Homer's Odyssey, once anyone tastes the fruit of the plant, they lose any wish to go home. The war is the metaphor for the lotus fruit, a fruit that keeps one in place, forgetting all thoughts of home.
While I enjoyed this book, Helen never seemed particularly real to me. I couldn't see how a college dropout would just jump on a plane to Vietnam and know how to become a photojournalist. It seemed too much of a stretch. Darrow, I could understand, as well as Linh. The truth of it, however, is that I didn't connect deeply to any of the characters. Having been a teenager and young adult during the war, I saw many of my friends go to Vietnam. Some came back and some didn't. I was emotionally burnt out by this novel, given my background and having heard so much about the war previously. I felt like I was drowning at times. While this is an excellent book in many ways, I found it to be more a book about war than about people. The descriptions of the different battles were too intense and too descriptive for my taste.
The descriptions of the countryside, the battle experiences, the people and their feelings, put me right into the book beside them. It seems bizarre to me that I don't have many memories of this war, since I was a teenager and college student during those years. But I was obviously totally wrapped up in my own little world of crushes and the drama club. All I can recall is seeing, night after night, footage of GI's walking in single file on the evening news, and hearing about two college friends' soldier boyfriends, one who wore his army-issue jacket all the time on his return (he was always cold in the Midwest) and wanted to bring his Vietnamese girlfriend back with him, and the other who left both legs in Viet Nam. I feel stupid for not being more aware of what was happening.
This book gripped me from the beginning, and didn't let me go till the last word. I was reading so fast at the end to see how it all finished that my eyes hurt. I felt I learned so much about the war, that era, journalists, the countryside of Vietnam, and so much more.
Get this book. Read it.