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The Sorrow of War: A Novel of North Vietnam Paperback – April 1, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
Kien, the protagonist of this rambling and sometimes nearly incoherent but emotionally gripping account of the Vietnam war, is a 10-year veteran whose experiences bear a striking similarity to those of the author, a Hanoi writer who fought with the Glorious 27th Youth Brigade. The novel opens just after the war, with Kien working in a unit that recovers soldiers' corpses. Revisiting the sites of battles raises emotional ghosts for him, "a parade of horrific memories" that threatens his sanity, and he finds that writing about those years is the only way to purge them. Juxtaposing battle scenes with dreams and childhood remembrances as well as events in Kien's postwar life, the book builds to a climax of brutality. A trip to the front with Kien's childhood sweetheart ends with her noble act of sacrifice, and it becomes clear to the reader that, in Vietnam, purity and innocence exist only to be besmirched. Covering some of the same physical and thematic terrain as Novel Without a Name (see above), The Sorrow of War is often as chaotic in construction as the events it describes. In fact, it is untidy and uncontrolled, like the battlefield it conveys. The point of view slips willy-nilly from the third person to the first, without any clear semblance of organization. The inclusion of a deaf mute who falls for Kien, and acts for a while as a witness to his life, seems gratuitous. The faults of this book are also its strengths, however. Its raggedness aptly evokes the narrator's feverish view of a dangerous and unpredictable world. And its language possesses a ferocity of expression that strikes the reader with all the subtlety of a gut-punch. Polishing this rough jewel would, strangely, make it less precious.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
From Library Journal
These two novelists, both of whom fought for North Vietnam, offer American readers a startlingly different perspective on the war.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the MP3 CD edition.
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Top customer reviews
It is story about a war and a story about an everlasting love between a girl and boy who grew up together, fell in love with each other, and who had to do their duty in defense of the country they loved.
It is about a character named Kien whose war experiences were similar in some key respects to those of the author: he was one of the few survivors of his unit.
The story is told in short vignettes arranged unchronologically. Sometimes Kien is remembering his life before the war. Sometimes he recalls snippets from the war, some intense and horrifying, others almost idyllic. Often he is struggling with his post-war present, trying to find a way to come to terms with his experience, trying to find a way to write about it.
While there are oblique references to specific events and places, this is no historical novel. The pertinent facts are that Kien joins the North Vietnamese Army in 1965 and serves until the war abruptly ends in 1975. Only occasionally does he encounter Americans, more often South Vietnamese Rangers.
The most horrifying story occurs in 1965 as American bombing raids disrupt his attempt to get to his unit before being declared a deserter. On impulse, his childhood sweetheart joins him on his rail journey southward, with dire consequences. It is the emotional climax of the book.
The book seems to be saying that war destroys even the lives of the survivors. It is a familiar message. It bears repeating.
Most recent customer reviews
Also, in Vietnam, the war is called the American War.