Saturday, April 14, 2012

"The Lotus Eaters" by Tatjana Soli

The Lotus Eaters
by Tatjana Soli
388 pages

Short Version: Relationships form in the city of Saigon as three photographers strive to show the truths of the Vietnam War through their photos.  

Why I Read It: I've never read anything about the Vietnam War so this caught my attention. And being about photographers made me want to pick it up even more.

The Book: From Goodreads
In the final days of a falling Saigon, The Lotus Eaters unfolds the story of three remarkable photographers brought together under the impossible umbrella of war: Helen Adams, a once-naïve ingénue whose ambition conflicts with her desire over the course of the fighting; Linh, the mysterious Vietnamese man who loves her, but is torn between conflicting loyalties to his homeland and his heart; and Sam Darrow, a man addicted to the narcotic of violence, to his intoxicating affair with Helen and to the ever-increasing danger of his job. All three become transformed by the conflict they have risked everything to record.
In this much-heralded debut, Tatjana Soli creates a searing portrait of three souls trapped by their impossible passions, contrasting the wrenching horror of combat and the treachery of obsession with the redemptive power of love.

My Thoughts: Reading about the Vietnam War was a new experience for me. In the first chapter I was a little confused. It was the fall of Saigon and Americans were to be leaving. I think the confusing part was the names Soli used- street names, people's names, etc. There was no introduction and I have never really seen Vietnamese names before so it took me awhile to grasp what was going on. Helen and Lihn were making their way to the American embassy. I figured out they had a relationship but knew nothing about it. Lihn was injured, but I did not know how. I felt like I was dropped into the end of a story. Once I made it to chapter 2 it all got better.
After the opening chapter during the fall of Saigon, the book takes you back to the beginning of Helen's arrival in Vietnam. I really liked Helen. She was the first woman photographer in the war. None of the men believed she would make it. None of the troops wanted her around. Helen went in innocent with a lot to learn, but came out an amazing photographer. Sam Darrow, one of the top war photographers around, helped Helen out in the beginning. This is where the first relationship was formed. Their relationship was nothing at first, but turned into something more serious when Sam was injured and asked Helen to come with him on a little vacation to recover. Sam would never be fully committed to the relationship, because his biggest concern was getting the next best photo.
Lihn, Sam's assistant, was a Vietnamese man working for the American photographers. He lost his family in the war and had nothing but work now. Lihn secretly fell in love with Helen, but was satisfied with keeping his feelings to himself. Sam insisted Lihn be Helen's assistant for her safety. Helen and Lihn had an awkward relationship. He was not used to the way Americans were so blunt and open with their feelings, especially coming from a woman. Helen made Lihn uncomfortable at times and then would feel foolish about it. After Sam died on a mission, Helen and Lihn's relationship changes. They fall in love and create a life together in Saigon that works for them.
As I came closer to the end of the book I wondered if I should re-read chapter 1 since I now understood what was going on. It turns out I did not have to. The last chapter goes back to where chapter 1 left off, bringing the whole book all together. It was a great way to end.
Although The Lotus Eaters takes place in the middle of a gruesome war, the love triangles formed give a glimmer of hope in such a desolate setting. I really enjoyed reading about a subject that was new to me.

4/5 Stars

PS- I apologize if this review is kind of all over the place. I'm lacking sleep from traveling international and cannot seem to focus very well.

#5 in 2012 Mount TBR Challenge
Click here to see full list

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love hearing from you! I appreciate all comments and will try to reply as soon as possible.