Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

Helen Adams is a photojournalist in Vietnam. She has been there for ten years, she has seen much of the war. As the book opens, the Americans are leaving Vietnam and she's fighting to get her and her Vietnamese lover, Linh, out of the country. He's in bad shape as he was just recently shot and they've been out of medicine for days.

But like the characters in the Academy Award winning film The Hurt Locker, war and the adrenaline of getting the perfect shot have become a kind of drug for Helen, still desperate to prove herself she ensures that Linh makes it out of Vietnam, but she stays behind.

Now I read all of this and was confused. I thought this was a book about the Vietnam War when I started reading, but it seemed like things were wrapping up at this point. Oh but I was fooled as Soli just gave me that tantalizing first fifty pages to get me to care about the characters and then she took me back to the beginning of the war.

There were a lot of things I liked about this book. I liked a lot of the observations about war, about cultural differences, about news and the way government shapes media and news. For the most part the writing was solid, though there was a bit of head hopping (abrupt shifts in point of view within the same scene) that drove me crazy. And while I liked the book, it wasn't tremendously engaging. I found myself wanting to skim through some sections to get back to what happened to Helen and Linh. Because the book opened with them, because I already knew so much of the outcome, I felt most invested in their story.

I would recommend The Lotus Eaters to people with an interest in war stories, particularly Vietnam, or an interest in foreign correspondents. It's definitely not light reading.

Rating: 4/5
Things You Might Want to Know: some profanity, violence, sex
Source of Book: ARC received for book tour with TLC Book Tours
Publisher: St. Martin's Press


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