January 31, 2013

'The Lotus Eaters' helps relive- not relieve - the Vietnam War

SAIGON, Vietnam - The Vietnam War has been the subject of many books - fiction and non-fiction - and remains an often-sensitive a political topic in America. I know because I have read about a dozen Vietnam books, including Frances FitzGerald's excellent Fire in the Lake. And I get into Vietnam debates, still.

In my generation - those of us who hit draft age right at the height of the war in the mid 1960s - we are divided between those who served in the military and those who did not. For the record, I had a draft deferment while in college, then in 1968, I dropped out and for about a year was prime-grade draft material with a 1A classification.

I was never called, though I have many amigos who were.

Tatjana Soli's The Lotus Eaters floods back memories from that time. The book is a combination documentary-drama-romance-potboiler that follows a woman photographer's personal and geographic journeys across Vietnam. The main character works as a journalist, so naturally my interest was piqued from the opening paragraphs. I stayed glued to it.

The book took Soli 10 years to write. Ten years! It makes my self-imposed book-writing deadline of April 1 seem pathetic. But the book's smacks of authenticity and research.

Tatjana Soli

I haven't had the heart to start her second book yet - The Forgetting Tree. The person who recommended The Lotus Eaters to me said The Forgetting Tree doesn't show the same genius.

Then there is also the issue of whenever I read a book as powerful as The Lotus Eaters, I have to ponder what it means for some time before I can pick up another tome.

This is not a light book for the beach. But I suspect most people who read it will come away changed, whether they served in Vietnam or not, whether they were a journalist or not, or whether they have been in love.

Or not.

1 comment:

Brynne said...

What a wonderful review. I would dive in today if I hadn't already read it:) How easily you make me smile.