Last night I was thinking about the Vietnam War Challenge I entered and realized I had not blogged about The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli. I requested my library purchase this book, was so excited to check it out, and then started it and got sidetracked before I could finish it. That is just never the best reading situation - it is always so much better for me to get into a book and read it right away. However, despite my on and off reading, I really did enjoy The Lotus Eaters.
This entire novel takes placing during the Vietnam war, opening in 1975 during the fall of Saigon, and then backtracking to fill in the story that led to this point.
Helen is a female photographer in Vietnam chronicling the war that killed her brother. She tries leaving , returning to the States, but can't get Vietnam out of her mind, and soon returns. During her time in Vietnam Helen carries on an affair with another reporter, Sam Darrow, who is married, but also can't get the war out of his system. Linh, a Vietnamese man is hired to assist them during their time in the country and is also struggling with his own demons - especially the loss of his beloved wife and child.
Despite reading a variety of books taking place during Vietnam I never feel like I know very much about this war. I was born after much of the Vietnam war had taken place, and unfortunately this period in our nations's history was nothing we ever covered in school. Soli was able to describe in such vivid detail the setting that it gave me a better sense of how the country looked and felt, the total chaos during the American evacuation of Saigon, and the way of life of the Vietnamese.
The way in which Helen's life unfolds is interesting and believable because of the isolation of her existence in Vietnam. She is totally immersed in this time and place, unaware and uncaring about the outside world. Because of that I was totally able to buy into her relationship with Darrow and then her relationship with Linh, who may not have been someone she would have had a relationship with in any other circumstance. Soli's novel captures the feeling of this period in history, developing a story around the life of a woman reporter during a time of war.
With each novel I read about this time my understanding of Vietnam grows a bit, and I develop a great appreciation for this chapter in America's history.