Reviews: THE LOTUS EATERS by Tatjana Soli

Several participants in the Vietnam War Reading Challenge have read and reviewed The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli.  Here are excerpts from their reviews; click on the links to read their complete thoughts.

She Is Too Fond of Books says, “Helen’s character grows and changes as she gains confidence and experience, both personally and professionally.  Soli lets Vietnam get into Helen’s soul – the people, the landscape, the often oppressive heat, and the customs of the area are soaked up and become part of Helen’s personality; she adapts and learns how to survive, and sometimes thrive, in this environment.

Soli’s excels at describing not only places and situations, but also the intricacies of various relationships.  As Helen settles into a long-term residence in Vietnam, she straddles the line between ‘American press’ and ‘expatriate resident.'”

Tutu’s Two Cents says: “We are able to see some of the background of the French occupation of the country and the origins of the  the war, the treacheries wrought by each participant in the conflict upon the other sides, and upon the long-suffering people of the villages.  It is here, in the descriptions of village life, that the book really shines.  By focusing on the impact of military actions on the villagers who are the victims, as well as the soldiers participating in them, we are given a mind-searing picture of what war is.

Helen’s personal story–the love affairs, as well as the mental and physical anguish she endures– is the framework on which Soli hangs the well researched story of troop maneuvers and military strategies: the life and death moments that emerge as photos in Helen’s dark room, blooming as the picture bursts forth in our minds like toner in developing pans. They are pictures that still haunt those who really participated in the conflict.”

dog eared copy says: “The book opens with the fall of Saigon. The listener becomes a voyeur of events that unfold during that day in April 1975 when the crush of people motivated by fear and desperation struggle to escape the approaching conquering armies. The listener follows Helen, the veteran female war photographer as she negotiates the physical and psychological detritus of the city. It becomes clear that this is not your musical, Miss Saigon. Images of the day imprint upon the mind’s eye as much as a newspaper photograph would, a clever literary technique given the protagonist’s profession. This photograph-as-prose approach is subtle in the beginning and more obvious later when certain scenes are literally framed.”

BookNAround says, “It is really the human connection that makes this novel so powerful and affecting. Soli invokes the reality of place and the horror of war without passing judgment but without white-washing anything either. Helen is a naive and appealing character at the beginning of the story and she is a strong and wonderful character, albeit one without any illusions, at the end. Linh is a multi-dimensional character with a real and realistic emotional reserve. The framing technique, whereby the story starts with the fall of Saigon and with the difficult and painful goodbye between Helen and Linh, only to go back in time and start at the beginning of the war, at the very nascence of their relationship, before love, is incredibly effective.”

**Attention participants:  Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**


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