This book would make fantastic supplemental reading for a course on Vietnamese history. The author chronicles more than a hundred years of the country’s recent past, using her family’s experiences as a focal point. It begins in the mid 19th century, when several of her male ancestors served as mandarins in a society that revered educational attainments; moves on to French colonialism and Japanese occupation during WWII; then to the Viet Minh struggle for independence, which doesn’t seem to truly divide the family despite their winding up on all sides of the conflict – the author’s father serves as a high-ranking official under the French while her oldest sister and brother-in-law join the rebels in the mountains, and her uncle, a wealthy landowner, puts his resources at the Viet Minh’s disposal. Then it traces the American intervention and the dramatic days of the communists’ takeover of South Vietnam, before ending with Vietnam’s struggles as an independent country.
It’s a lot to pack into 475 pages, and the author balances the story of her family with a broader historical perspective. The history appears well-researched, and based on her bibliography, draws heavily on Vietnamese as well as English-language sources. It also seems balanced; at times, when family members’ paths during the war diverge sharply, we get separate chapters covering the same events from different perspectives, and the author doesn’t seem to be advocating for either one over the other. Though the author’s parents threw in their lot with the French and later South Vietnam, she – like many Vietnamese – seems to respect the communists’ commitment, and while the American intervention was a short-term boon for middle-class families like hers, she ultimately seems to conclude that the communist victory was both inevitable and not as awful as propaganda had led the South Vietnamese to expect.
The book’s biggest weakness is that it is rather dry, much more focused on facts than building a dramatic narrative. Though it is in part a memoir, we learn little about the author herself; she tends to relate the facts of a situation with perhaps a bald statement of her feelings, but without developing any of the emotional detail that might allow readers to experience the story along with her. There are exceptions, though; her account of the dramatic last days before the fall of Saigon (through the eyes of several family members) is downright gripping.
Overall, I’d recommend this book, but more for educational purposes than entertainment. It is a strong answer to the rest of English-language literature about Vietnam, which tends to be from an American perspective and focused exclusively on the war.
My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts...
Escape to Love, a lovely novella and book 6 in Ramona Flightner’s Banished Saga series, was quite the treat. A surprising treat to be sure! I’ve been a fan of this series since I started reading it back in 2014 and the Saga has only gotten better with each installment.
The Banished Saga, when it began, was set on the offset of suffragist movement of Boston 1901. Along the way we met many characters, including our favorite, the first couple of the series, Clarissa and Gabriel in Banished Love. Their story was ongoing in books 2 and 3, Reclaimed Love and Undaunted Love. They still make appearances in the latest installments. We also met Clarissa and Gabriel’s family. Clarissa’s own brothers Colin and Patrick, who wasn’t introduced until much later. Her cousin Savannah and best friend Florence, both avid suffragettes and worked with Clarissa throughout. Gabriel’s younger brothers Richard and Jeremy were also introduced, as was their long lost uncle Aidan.
The story started to veer away from the original couples when it jumped 10 years in book 4, Tenacious Love. The spotlight had shifted onto the second generations of McLeod/Sullivans. New characters and couples their contemporary were introduced. By then Clarissa-Gabriel, Savannah-Jeremy, Richard-Florence were married with children. Aidan had his long lost love Delia back in his life, bonus with a daughter, Zylphia whom he didn’t know existed (he was a sailor and had not been around Boston for years). Each had come through a long, arduous journey to find their own standing in life and the men or women they loved. I had loved every single moment of it because it always felt like I’m a friend, and not just a spectator of their lives.
This is a sad story. It is from different point of views of members of a family. The father is mentally ill and cannot shake it off. He tries over his life but he has to be hospitalized several times and his wife and kids are left to make it through plus take care of him. One of the children inherits mental illness. The reader gets to hear what it's like for the person enduring the mental pain and from those who deal with their lives being turned around repeatedly because of their family member. It's no fun for anyone involved. There's lots of love and tough decisions. This story is well-rounded, adding in everyone's regular issues too. It's a great book for those that want to see how hard life is for people in these situations.
Oh man, this story. It's a doozy. Some parts are just so very sad. The family just keeps trying and trying and trying. Their life is such a struggle. The woman, OMG, her entire life is heartbreaking. Thinking of her makes me feel overwhelmed. The Good Earth is about a family trying to live off the land and better themselves. Each decision affects their entire future. It's a humbling story for sure. This is a hard book for me to rate. I love a book that makes me emotional, and this did that very much. Some parts made me upset in a bad way though, but I guess it really was just staying true to how life was. If you're looking for a story to take you away, this did that for me. It totally took over my mind while I was reading it. If you're looking for a upbeat tale, this probably isn't it. It's not all sad like my review is making it sound though. I do recommend it very much.