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Five great books set in VIETNAM
12th July 2020
Vietnam is the latest region for us to visit in our ‘Great books set in…’ series. Five great books set in Vietnam.
‘The Vietnamese people deeply love independence, freedom and peace’ – Ho Chi Minh
Dragon House by John Shors
An unforgettable story of redemption set in modern-day Vietnam.
Dragon House tells the tale of Iris and Noah – two Americans who, as a way of healing their own painful pasts, open a centre to house and educate Vietnamese street children. In the slums of a city that has known little but war for generations, Iris and Noah befriend children who dream of nothing more than of going to school, having a home, and being loved.
Learning from the poorest of the poor, the most silent of the unheard, Iris and Noah find themselves reborn. Resounding with powerful themes of suffering, sacrifice, friendship, and love, Dragon House brings together East and West, war and peace, and celebrates the resilience of the human spirit.
Saigon by Anthony Grey
Joseph Sherman first visits Saigon, the capital of French colonial Cochin-China, in 1925 on a hunting expedition with his father, a US senator. He is lured back again and again as a traveler, a soldier, and then as a reporter by his fascination for the exotic land and for Lan, a mandarin’s daughter he cannot forget.
Over five decades, Joseph’s life becomes enmeshed with the political intrigues of two of Saigon’s most influential families, the French colonist Devrauxs, and the native Trans – and inevitably with Vietnam’s turbulent, war torn fate. He is there when the hatred of a million coolies rises against the French, and when the French Foreign Legion fights its bloody last stand at Dien Bien Phu.
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
As the fall of Saigon begins in 1975, two lovers make their way through the streets, desperately trying to catch one of the last planes out. Helen Adams, a photojournalist, must leave behind a war she has become addicted to and a devastated country she loves. Linh, her lover, must grapple with his own conflicting loyalties to the woman from whom he can’t bear to be parted, and his country.
Betrayal and self-sacrifice follows, echoing the pattern of their relationship over the war-torn years, beginning in the splendour of Angkor Wat, with jaded, cynical, larger-than-life war correspondent Sam Darrow, Helen’s greatest love and fiercest competitor, driven by demons she can only hope to vanquish.
Spurred on by the need to get the truth of the war out to an international audience, and the immense personal cost this carries, Sam and Helen’s passionate and all-consuming love is tested to the limit. This mesmerising novel carries resonance across contemporary wars with questions of love and heart-breaking betrayal interwoven with the conflict.
The Quiet American by Graham Greene
Into the intrigue and violence of 1950s Indo-China comes CIA agent Alden Pyle, a young idealistic American sent to promote democracy through a mysterious ‘Third Force’. As his naive optimism starts to cause bloodshed, his friend Fowler, a cynical foreign correspondent, finds it hard to stand aside and watch.
But even as he intervenes he wonders why: for the greater good, or something altogether more complicated?
The Headmaster’s Wager by Vincent Lam
From internationally acclaimed and bestselling author Vincent Lam comes a superbly crafted, highly suspenseful, and deeply affecting novel set against the turmoil of the Vietnam War.
Percival Chen is the headmaster of the most respected English school in Saigon. He is also a bon vivant, a compulsive gambler and an incorrigible womanizer. Well accustomed to bribing government officials, he is quick to spot the business opportunities rife in a divided country. He devotedly ignores all news of conflict, choosing instead to read the faces of his opponents at high-stakes mahjong tables.
But when his only son gets in trouble with the Vietnamese authorities, Percival is forced to send him away. In the loneliness that follows, Percival finds solace in Jacqueline, a beautiful woman of mixed French and Vietnamese heritage, and Laing Jai, a son born to them on the eve of the Tet offensive. Percival’s new-found happiness is precarious, and as the complexities of war encroach further and further into his world.
The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh
10 years in the war and Kien suffers a breakdown – he has seen too much, experienced the horrors of this particular war. In Hanoi he tries to re-establish a relationship former girlfriend. A truly heart rending story of determination and passion at a very difficult period in the history of Vietnam.
Andrew for the TripFiction Team
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