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Tagged with " Vietnam War"
13 Nov
2018
Posted in: Book Reviews
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Book Review: “Sweden” by Matthew Turner

Sweden, Book Review

Reviewed by Bev Scott

This book, written as historical fiction, offers a mostly unknown story of deserters from the Vietnam War and their Japanese peace activist guides committed to help them get out of Japan and escape to Sweden. I found the story of their perilous efforts to escape both the Japanese police and the US military fascinating. I was a young adult at the time of the Vietnam War but the true experiences described in this book were unique and totally new to me. The characters were realistic and the descriptions of events in both Japan and the US seemed historically accurate.

My criticism of the book is that it moved too slowly with more description than necessary of the deserters’ experiences in the Japanese culture and environment. I found myself often bored and skipping paragraphs to move the story along. In addition, the introduction of characters at the beginning of the book was confusing to me. Some serious editing to address these issues would make this a compelling and vivid story.

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31 Jan
2018
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Book Review: “The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen

 

Book reviewed by Bev Scott

The Sympathizer Book Review by Bev ScottThe Sympathizer tells the first-person story of a communist spy embedded in South Vietnam during the “American War.” He serves as a loyal aide to “the General” of the South Vietnamese army at the same time he shares information with his communist handlers loyal to North Vietnam. He evacuates with the General when the U.S. pulls out of South Vietnam and ends up in California as an immigrant. Continuing his close connection to the General as well as his relationship with his handlers, he ultimately returns to Vietnam in a futile attempt to infiltrate North Vietnam and is captured and held prisoner. Held in isolation for a year, he is required by the “faceless” Commandant to write his confession before he is freed. This confession is the first-person story of the book.

I began reading this book as part of my preparation to travel to Vietnam last December. The author, Viet Thanh Nguyen has won a Pulitzer Prize and several other prizes for this book, but I found it very hard to read. The focus switches from description to dialogue, from one location to another, from one character to another without punctuation or explanation. Despite the gripping, wry and historical nature of the story, and what many consider brilliant writing, I had to force myself to continue to read it.

I did finally finish it and valued the Vietnamese perspective it provided. I gradually adjusted to the writing style. I agree that it skillfully draws the reader into the mysteries of Vietnam’s political intrigue. I also appreciated learning more about the impact of selfless commitment and passion to a political cause. The book raises evocative questions regarding the interplay of morality, power and a strong belief in a greater cause while also revealing multiple views on the subject. I am glad I read it.

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