The Lotus EatersBy Tatjana Soli
The first chapter of this novel grabbed me and promised an incomparable story. The rest of the novel never quite fulfilled that promise, but it was a riveting story about love and obsession in the midst the Vietnam war. For the most part it was beautifully written. While the theme might not be highly original, I found the treatment to be engaging and the characters compelling.
Helen Adams is one of the first female photojournalists in Vietnam during the mid-sixties. She went to Vietnam following her brother's death in combat because she wanted to understand why he died.
She never comes up with a good answer for that question, but she immerses herself in the ex-pat community in Saigon and in the “family” of journalists. Later, she falls in love with a Vietnamese photojournalist. Nearly a decade later, Helen is among the last of the American journalists to leave Vietnam after South Vietnam fell to the communists, making her escape via a road trip through the killing fields of Khmer Rouge-occupied Cambodia.
Violent and unflinching, the story hacks its way through the final years of the Vietnamese debacle, exuding love for a land and its people scarred and all but destroyed by decades of warfare. I was a bit annoyed by the “head-hopping” semi-omniscient point of view. I think the author would have done better to pick one, or maybe two, points of view and stick to them. That is quibbling. I liked the book a lot and I especially enjoyed the rather delicate and lovely writing for such a grim tale. As a protagonist, Helen is a regular stand up gal.