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The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

The Lotus Eaters
By Tatjana Soli
Completed March 29, 2010

The Vietnam War. The very term means “conflict” in every context. From the battles in the jungle to the peace movement at home, the American involvement in Vietnam was a conflict for many. It’s this part of American history that serves as a backdrop for Tatjana Soli’s debut novel, The Lotus Eaters. Told primarily from the perspective of young Helen Adams, a freelance photographer, the reader learns about the war through Helen’s eyes and lenses.

As a female photographer, Helen was cast aside for more humanitarian assignments, but through her nerve and charm, she managed to attach herself to a company going on patrol. During this patrol, Helen established herself as a combat photographer, capturing images of a Southern Vietnamese captain executing a civilian before trying to turn the gun on Helen. With a near-death experience under her belt, Helen became more fearless and addicted to the adrenaline of war. Her work improved, landing her covers and bylines and more respect from her fellow journalists.

While Helen’s professional life was taking off, she met her match with fellow photojournalist, Sam Darrow, who she would eventually have an affair with. Helen also forged a friendship with Sam’s Vietnamese assistant, Linh. Through Linh, we see the war through a Vietnamese man’s eye – a war without victories.

Soli begins The Lotus Eaters at the end of her story, when Americans were trying to get out of Saigon before the arrival of the North Vietnamese. Soli unveils that Sam was killed, and Helen and Linh were now lovers. Starting with the ending was an unusual move, but Soli’s deft writing style leads the readers through each scene with precision. When the reader catches back up with Helen and Linh in the last chapter, you’ve learned about Helen’s personal journey and how she turns into the woman she becomes.

The Lotus Eaters is a multi-layered story that shows many facets to the Vietnam War – the American soldiers and the Vietnamese people; the journalists and the peace activists; and the opportunists and the deceived. Highly recommended for lovers of historical fiction, The Lotus Eaters is a tale worth reading and a story never to forget. ( )

Tags: 2010 books i've read, early reviewer
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