logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: Vietnam
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-05-26 01:24
MADAME NHU: SOUTH VIETNAM'S MARIE ANTOINETTE?
Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam's Madame Nhu - Monique Brinson Demery

I came to this book in a rather indirect way. Some years ago, I heard a radio interview with the author, Monique Brinson Demery, in which she described her ongoing efforts to meet the mysterious Madame Nhu (1924-2011) and earn her trust. It was a fascinating story. One that stimulated some part of my memory that contained a scrap of knowledge as to whom Madame Nhu was and her role in the leadership of South Vietnam between 1954 and 1963.

The Vietnam War, though the American phase of it largely took place within my lifetime, I knew little about. Nor did I for many years have an interest in trying to understand that war. I was but an infant when LBJ first committed U.S. military forces to South Vietnam in March 1965. And by the time our POWs had been repatriated from North Vietnam and the U.S. had washed its hands of Vietnam, I was in elementary school. Another couple of decades would pass before I began to look into the factors, personalities, and events that led to Vietnam being engulfed in what was a civil war between 1945 (when the French - the former colonial master - returned, intent on reasserting its authority in Indochina) and 1975, when the Communists triumphed and reunified the country. Reading "The Best and the Brightest" by David Halberstam in the mid 1990s was my starting point.

Demery tells a story that gives the reader access into the life of Madame Nhu, her family (who had long figured prominently in Vietnamese history), Demery's own relationship with Madame Nhu (who could be both kind and intransigent when it suited her), and the history of Vietnam from the late 19th century to November 1, 1963 (when both Madame Nhu's husband and her brother-in-law the President of the Republic of Vietnam were murdered in a coup).

For anyone curious to know why Vietnam continues to impact itself upon the American psyche, this is a book well worth reading.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-05-22 03:37
The Sacred Willow by Duong Van Mai Elliott
The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family - Duong Van Mai Elliott

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.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-05-16 02:07
ODYSSEY OF A PHOENIX
One Trip Too Many: A pilot's memoirs of 38 months in combat over Laos and Vietnam - Wayne A. Warner

"ONE TRIP TOO MANY" is a memoir that will appeal to both the thrill-seeker and fan of human interest stories. The author - who grew up in the U.S. Midwest during the 1940s and 1950s - shares with the reader his determination to become a pilot, which leads to him winning a competitive appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1959. He graduated from the Academy in June 1963 as a freshly minted Second Lieutenant, having earned his degree and a handshake from President Kennedy himself.

Later, following advanced flight training, Warner is sent to Vietnam, where he experiences combat from the earliest days of the American involvement in 1965. Warner proved to be a highly skilled pilot, adept at flying both multi-engined and single-engine aircraft. Indeed, Warner would return to Vietnam on 2 different combat tours. From late 1967 through the summer of 1968, he flew 121 combat missions in the sleek F-105 'Thunderchief' fighter-bomber, known affectionately as the 'Thud.' At least 16 of those missions entailed deep penetration raids into North Vietnam as far as Hanoi, braving anti-aircraft fire, radar guided SAMs (i.e. surface-to-air missiles), and enemy MiG jet fighters. These missions, designated Pack Six sorties, were extremely hazardous as losses to enemy action over North Vietnam tended to be extremely high.

Warner would go on to return to Southeast Asia in early 1969, after having trained to fly the A-1 Skyraider attack/search & rescue aircraft. Unfortunately, Warner would meet with tragedy in the Skyraider in March of that year.

There is much more to this inspiring and uplifting story, which I leave for the reader to discover.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-04-22 21:31
A book for readers who enjoy science-fiction that asks big questions, with religious undertones, and lots of action
As Wings Unfurl - Arthur M. Doweyko

I thank the author who contacted me thanks to Lit World Interviews for offering me an ARC copy of his novel that I freely chose to review.

I am not a big reader of science-fiction (perhaps because I don’t seem to have much patience these days for lengthy descriptions and world building and I’m more interested in books that focus on complex characters) so I was doubtful when the author suggested I review it, but the angel plot and the peculiarities of the story won me over. There are many things I enjoyed in this book but I’m not sure that it was the book for me.

As I’ve included the description and it is quite detailed (I was worried about how I could write about the book without revealing any spoilers but, many of the things I was worried about are already included in the description) I won’t go into the ins and outs of the story. The novel starts as a thriller, set in 1975. A private detective has taken a compromising photo and that puts him in harm’s way. Apple, the main character, seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, although later events make us question this and wonder if perhaps what happens was preordained. One of the interesting points in the novel, for me, was that the main character was a Vietnam War veteran, amputee (he lost a leg) and now addicted to Morphine. He also experiences symptoms of PTSD. Although his vivid dreams and flashbacks slowly offer us some background information, and the whole adventure gives him a new perspective on life and a love interest, I found it difficult to fully connect with the character. It was perhaps due to the fast action and the changes in setting and point of view that make it difficult to fully settle one’s attention on the main protagonists. One of the premises of the story is that Angela, the mysterious character who is his ersatz guardian angel, has known him all his life. She is oddly familiar to him, and she decides to give up her privileges and her life mission because of him, but as Angela’s interest in him precedes the story, there is no true development of a relationship and readers don’t necessarily understand why they are attracted to each other from the start.

The story, written in the third person, is told mostly from Apple’s point of view but there are also two other characters, from Tibet, Shilog, a farmer, and Yowl, what most of us would think of as a Yeti, but that we later learn is a member of a native Earth species. In my opinion, these two characters are more fully realised, as we don’t have any previous knowledge or any expectations of who they are, and they work well as a new pair of eyes (two pairs of eyes) for the readers, as they start their adventure truly clueless as to what is going on, and the situation is as baffling to them as it is to us. They are also warm and genuinely amusing and they offer much welcome comic relief. They are less bogged down by conventions and less worried about their own selves.

I enjoyed also the background story and the underlying reasoning behind the presence of the “angels” (aliens) in the world. It does allow for interesting debates as to what makes us human and what our role on Earth is. How this all fits in with traditional religions and beliefs is well thought out and it works as a plot element. It definitely had me thinking.

I said before that one of the problems I had with some fantasy and science-fiction is my lack of patience with world building and detailed descriptions. In this case, though, other than some descriptions about the Tibetan forest and mountains, I missed having a greater sense of location. The characters moved a lot from one place to the next and, even if you were paying attention, sometimes it was difficult to follow where exactly the action was taking place (especially because some of the episodes depended heavily on secret passages, doors, locked rooms…) and I had to go back a few times to check, in case I had missed some change of location inadvertently. (This might not be a problem for people who are used to reading more frantically paced action stories.) I guess there are two possible reading modes I’d recommend for this story; either pay very close attention or go with the flow and enjoy the ride.

I really enjoyed the baddie. Dane is awesome. I don’t mind the bad characters that are victims of their circumstances or really conflicted about what they do, but every so often I like a convinced baddie, who takes no prisoners and goes all the way. She is not without justification either, and later we learn something that puts a different spin on her behaviour (I didn’t find it necessary but it does fit in with the overall story arc). The irony of her character and how she uses human institutions and religions to subvert the given order is one of my favourite plot points and she is another source of humour, although darker in this case.

All in all, this is a book for readers who enjoy science-fiction that asks big questions, with religious undertones, lots of action and not too worried about the psychological makeup of the main characters. Ah, and if you love stories about Bigfoot or the Yeti, you’ll love this one.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review 2017-02-24 19:48
Chasing Understanding In The Jungles of Vietnam: My Year as a Black Scarf - Douglas Beed

Beed has written a memoir of experiences that ten of thousands of young men in the late 60's lived through. Being drafted to fight in Vietnam, going there and doing his job, and returning to the U.S. a changed and damaged man. Experiencing hell, dealing with it, and pushing on. He tells his story through the eyes of an infantryman. And he tells it excellently, honestly, and openly. The training, the waiting, the boredom, the excitement, and the outright terror of the deployment. The incompetence of the "lifers". The return home, the anger, the drinking, the confusion, and ultimately, the conquering of the experiences.  While Beed experiences an amazing amount of combat, he never once "blows his own horn", instead he relates the experiences in a plain-spoken, yet vivid manner. The result is that the reader feels they are there with Beed. The same when he returns home, never boasting of his experiences, instead keeping them to himself. Yet the way he opens up in the end of the book, you have to marvel at the man, his strength, and of  the other men with similar experiences. Excellent book!

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?