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The Deep Green Sea

3.39  ·  Rating Details  ·  191 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
In "The Deep Green Sea," Robert Olen Butler has created a memorable and incandescent love story between a contemporary Vietnamese woman orphaned in 1975, when Saigon finally fell to the Communists, and a Vietnam veteran who returns from America to a once war-torn land, seeking closure and a measure of peace. Bit by bit they learn more of each other's pasts. Secrets are rev ...more
Paperback, Large Print, 240 pages
Published January 15th 1999 by Holt McDougal (first published January 15th 1998)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 273)
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Lisa Allender
Nov 12, 2008 Lisa Allender rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've already written a review at Barnes &, but what you need to know is this:
Buy this book and read it for the LANGUAGE--for the poetic ways in which a tumultuous love affair turns into the things myths, fables, are made of. Though some have criticized this novel for being "too predictable", I would say it has an uncanny sense of "inevitability"--the excitement is not in the ending, but in how Mr. Butler gets you there. And get you there, he does!
Mar 19, 2010 Elizabeth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
spoiler alert: exactly what you think is going to happen, from the first fucking page, happens, and then the book is immediately over.
Nov 08, 2010 Caty rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

Though the racial and historical dynamics could've been dealt with better--though Butler certainly gives it a good try--what I found most interesting about the book is the revelation of incest at the end of it. The two have fallen in love only to discover they are father and daughter. A book could play this for laughs or disgust, etc, but instead, it shows the true anguish and love of the two antagonists and the accident of history and biology that allowed them to meet years af
Leanne Hunt
Nov 06, 2013 Leanne Hunt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This struck me as a very unusual book. Told from the point of view of two characters, it switches back and forth from the present to the past, weaving legend, family lore, memory and perception together in a most charming way.
The present-day story moves very slowly and is described in exquisite detail, with attention to sensuality and internal puzzlement. The back stories cover three generations of Vietnamese and American people, drawing in the character of each country and the social issues per
Mar 16, 2016 Chloe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
robert olen butler is so good at making me cry. this is a killer book. feels dreamy and solid at the same time. will definitely be hunting down more of his work.
Sep 24, 2011 Jami rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was absolutely amazing. The alternating male/female narrative really puts the reader into this very complex and compelling "situation" in a way that makes the reader uncomfortable and excited and anxious and angry all at the same time. It is a difficult novel to put down once you get started and the sensuality of this novel as a whole is, in my opinion, unmatched by anything else out there today.

Dane Rune
Apr 25, 2016 Dane Rune rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Robert Olen Butler is a beautiful writer. As most of these reviews have said, the plot in itself isn't the best part about this novel, but I was propelled through the book anyways. Butler's sense of his characters is absolutely amazing, and every paragraph is beautiful in its own right.
Feb 23, 2010 Diana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Definitely a compelling, erotic story. Simply written, and unsurprising in its denouement, what was interesting was knowing the tragic (and unsavory) nature of the love story from almost the beginning, and yet being drawn into it nonetheless.
Michael Mark
Nov 07, 2015 Michael Mark rated it really liked it
This is the only book by Robert Olen Butler that I have read, and I enjoyed it very much. I particularly enjoyed the back-and-forth between the first person narratives of the two main characters. I thought he handled them both with a great deal of sensitivity and that the novel as a whole was a powerful exploration of the way the gravity our longing so often pulls us, through the vehicle of a Love that knows no rules, into unexpected contact with our most deeply held pain. It is staggering to co ...more
Jul 11, 2015 Katie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 27, 2015 Diogenes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A short but extremely powerful tale of a love that is at once pure and tarnished. The prose is absorbing and poignant and haunting. An exceptionally interesting story, but not recommended for those with a Puritanical bent.
Sep 05, 2014 Cynthia rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Get the soft cover so this book doesn't damage your drywall when you fling it across the room.
Jun 14, 2010 Gwen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A return to Vietnam story, this book tells the story of a love affair between a young Vietnamese woman and a Vietnam veteran in the early 1990s. There is some beautifully detailed writing, as the author tells the story moment by erotic moment, first in one character's voice and then the other's. It is an allegory for the American experience in Vietnam. The narrative is like a fairy tale or a myth, poetic and larger than life, but told with lots of emotional detail, which makes it a compelling re ...more
Richard Ruby
Sep 22, 2010 Richard Ruby rated it it was amazing
This is one of the very best novels I have ever read, though one could say that of most of Robert Olen Butler's work.

Butler writes like Ingrid Bergman looks. The stunning beauty of his prose alone make the book worth reading. The story of the main characters, Tien and Ben is at once deep and profoundly moving, as well as tragic on a Greek scale.
Aug 29, 2008 Kristen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book won a pulitzer prize, which led me to beleive that the first 80 pages would NOT be a sex scene. But, as is often in life, I was wrong. The writing was good, but the fact that I felt uncomfortable reading it on a plane (where people could read over my shoulder) means it onlt gets four stars.
Jan 29, 2011 Sandy rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Robert Olen Butler is greatly influenced by Viet Nam. This is a creepy tale of a former GI and a woman he meets and befriends. This book did not live up to my expectations which were pretty high as I loved A Good Smell from a Strange Mountain. A short story collection by Butler.
Feb 15, 2013 Kurt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. Yes, the subject matter was disturbing, and yes, the denouement was forseen, but the language, the "pillow talk" between these doomed lovers lit up every page. An erotic, tragic duet, and literary pas de deux that, like all art should be, is not for everyone's taste.
Apr 09, 2011 Ellen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
I feel like writing to the library to ask that they take this book out of their collection.
Lots of sex details and very creepy. The author is very talented. I think he misused his talent in this book. It seems like the reviewers here either love the book or hate it.
Sarah Beth
Jan 03, 2012 Sarah Beth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is a very talented writer, and I learned much about thelives of mixed-race children of Vietnamese "bar girls" and American GIs during and after the war.

The ending is quite shocking.
Sep 07, 2012 Loraxe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting story idea which could easily have been a true story, but I sort of wish it had just been part of a larger story, I wanted to know more about what happened after.
Would have liked to rate it higher, but the story itself doesn't seem to warrant it. His writing is really beautiful, I'm really looking forward to picking up some of his others.
Erma Aker

Couldn't decide how many stars to give this book. The writing is beautiful and evocative, the plot predictable and the ending melodramatic.
K. L. Petersen
Aug 08, 2013 K. L. Petersen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was remarkable. I look forward to reading more of Butler's work. He's a gutsy writer with extraordinary talent.
Apr 18, 2009 Kikidee rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Robert Olen Butler has managed to take a taboo and turn it into a love story that is by turns haunting and terrifying.
Sep 25, 2012 Justin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Hugely disappointing...prudish, uptight, overly mannered, with a preposterous ending. Some will like it though.
Jeff Ereverock
Vietnam Vet takes the only appropriate action to extricate himself from an inappropriate affair.
Sep 02, 2012 Monica rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Was so disappointed I actually returned it.
Jun 09, 2008 Jeanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
wow, what an ending!
Corinne McNab
Feb 05, 2008 Corinne McNab rated it did not like it
Shelves: in-my-library
Yuck! Can you say oedipus?
Mar 08, 2008 sandra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful prose and pacing.
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“I’ll never stop believing it: Robert Olen Butler is the best living American writer, period.”
– Jeff Guinn, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Robert Olen Butler has published eleven novels which includes The Alleys of Eden, Sun Dogs, Countrymen of Bones, On Distant Ground, Wabash, The Deuce, They Whisper, The Deep Green Sea, Mr. Spaceman, Fair Warning, and Hell, as well as five volumes of short fiction; Tab
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