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The Lotus Eaters

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3.84  ·  Rating Details  ·  9,369 Ratings  ·  1,437 Reviews
A unique and sweeping debut novel of an American female combat photographer in the Vietnam War, as she captures the wrenching chaos and finds herself torn between the love of two men.

Ona stifling day in 1975, the North Vietnamese army is poised to roll into Saigon. As the fall of the city begins, two lovers make their way through the streets to escape to a new life. Helen

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Hardcover, 389 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by St. Martin's Press
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MissIris Yes, it's worth it. I would read again but only after I have read everything else I want to read.

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Amanda
Jul 31, 2014 Amanda rated it really liked it
Shelves: vietnam, nancy-pearl
Initially set against the fall of Saigon and then flashing back to the early 1960's, Tatjana Soli's The Lotus Eaters evokes the hypnotic horrors of war set against a lush, culturally rich landscape that lured many photojournalists during the Vietnam War. Falling victim to the intoxicating mix of adrenaline, fear, curiosity, and self-righteousness, they--just as the lotus eaters of Homer's The Odyssey--forsake their homelands as war becomes their passion and their comfort.

The novel focuses on Hel
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Staci
Oct 02, 2011 Staci rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Staci by: TLC Tour Book
My thoughts:
This one punched me deep in my gut....I literally sobbed for 15 minutes after I finished the last page. All of these emotions were swirling within my chest and brain and I needed to release them with a good cry. I am just beginning to understand why my two uncles that served in Vietnam never spoke of their experience. Who would want to revisit those horrors, to have those images dredged up again, to make them real once more? I felt shell-shocked and wounded deep in my soul by the evi
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Wow! Can this really be Tatjana Soli's first novel? She pierces right through all the bullshit about war in general and the Vietnam debacle in particular. I've learned to steer clear of most novels about Vietnam because there's usually too much of the macho jungle combat detail. I'm glad I made an exception for The Lotus Eaters. Written by a woman about a woman---a photographer who shows up in Vietnam in 1965 with no idea what she's doing or how it will change her life.
I'm glad I stayed with th
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Book Concierge
Mar 03, 2012 Book Concierge rated it it was ok
I had such high hopes for this book. Basically it’s the story of a young woman combat photographer in Vietnam towards the end of the war, Helen Adams, and the two men she loves – Sam Darrow (a seasoned photographer who has a reputation), and Linh (the Vietnamese man who is Darrow’s and then Helen’s assistant).

I didn’t find anything about the relationships believable. I didn’t feel the passion or tenderness or compassion or love between any of them. The mark of good writing is that the author wil
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Wendy
Apr 04, 2010 Wendy rated it it was amazing
I watched the film The Hurt Locker recently. I have had difficulty putting my thoughts onto paper about it and so you haven't seen a review. One thing in particular that stood out for me, however, was the scene where Staff Sergeant James is grocery shopping, followed by a scene of him trying to talk to his wife about his experiences in the Iraq War as she prepares a meal. These are very revealing scenes. The soldier goes from intense and life threatening situations in Iraq to the every day monot ...more
Jill
Mar 27, 2015 Jill rated it it was amazing
Typically, I avoid war books like the plague with a few notable exceptions (Tim O’Brien, Kevin Power). So The Lotus Eaters sat on my To Be Read shelf for nearly three years before I picked it up. And once I started reading, the house could have burned down around me – THAT’S how compelling it is.

Tatjana Soli’s main character, gutsy Helen Adams, is a photographer who feeds on the adrenalin rush of covering the war in Vietnam – an unwinnable war in which it is not unusual for a native Vietnamese t
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Larry Bassett
Jun 09, 2012 Larry Bassett rated it really liked it
Recommended to Larry by: Molly Hansen

“Every good war picture is an antiwar picture. Why am I here otherwise?”

This was a wonderful book to read, one of the best of the many books I have read about Vietnam. It combines the horror of war with the beauty of the Vietnamese countryside; you experience the city, the jungle, the village. There is the strange confluence of periods of love and tenderness and peace with the overarching unpredictability of a war zone. It is a story about love, love of place, love of self, love of danger. And
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Julie
May 16, 2013 Julie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie by: Janet Maslin/NY Times
The perfect title. As readers, we give it little thought. By the time we see a book in its finished state, it’s a done deal. We consider its cover, the heft in our hands as we ponder the accolades on the back jacket or peruse the synopsis on the inside flap (I don’t know what e-reading sorts do – don’t you miss the feel of a book, the whisper and scent of paper and ink? Sigh.). At any rate, the right title is perhaps the most critical and taken-for-granted aspect of a book.

But the perfect title
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TheGirlBytheSeaofCortez
The Lotus Eaters, Tatjana Soli’s debut novel, is quite impressive, but not without its faults. It revolves around neophyte photojournalist, Helen Adams, who we first meet in 1975 in Saigon as the North Vietnamese begin to roll through the city, and the city falls. I guess I shouldn’t call Adams a neophyte photojournalist because she arrived in Vietnam in 1965, an idealistic California girl, fresh out of college, her only previous encounter with war being her father’s tales of fighting in the Kor ...more
Scott
Jan 18, 2011 Scott rated it it was ok
Shelves: current-fiction
On the positive side, it was a gripping story and was well written. However, for me, the negatives outweigh the positives. First, the perspective shifted from character to character in a dizzying manner that often left me wondering whose thoughts and feelings we were following. Second, it was full of cliches. At least three characters who said something like 'I'm a good luck charm' or 'all we have is time' were dead within 5 pages. There was the tough as nails special ops soldier with a heart of ...more
Jeffrey Crimmel
May 01, 2011 Jeffrey Crimmel rated it really liked it
Finished the Lotus Eaters on May 1. This is a great account of that war that made headlines and dominated the lives of my generation from the late 60s to the late 70s. While I was traveling around the world and living the story of my book, Living Beneath the Radar, I arrived in Bangkok the day the last helicopters pulled out of Saigon, in Vietnam. The author takes the present day reader back to that country leading up to the dramatic end and the chaos that existed in the neighboring countries of ...more
Gabby
Jul 26, 2011 Gabby rated it it was ok
I'd heard some good things about this book, and it had some good reviews, so I picked it up. I'm always willing to read something a little different.

This was a historical fiction work about the Vietnam War. The main character is a female photographer who kinda stumbles into becoming a star photographer of the war, and how living amid the war, and in Vietnam shaped and changed her life.

The book was okay, as it took me awhile to sort of get into it. I kept hoping for more. The writing was fine, as
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Susan
May 14, 2010 Susan rated it liked it
Recommended to Susan by: Tara
3 1/2 stars.
All they now wanted was to stay where they were with the Lotus-eaters, to browse on the lotus, and to forget all thoughts of return.
Homer, The Odyssey as quoted in The Lotus Eaters.

In chapter one, photojournalist Helen Adams is preparing to leave Vietnam during the 1975 evacuation. Chapter two starts in 1963 with Linh, a former Vietnamese soldier, now an assistant to photojournalist Darrow. Both eventually meet Helen and become her friends, her life, and Vietnam becomes her home in
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Bev
Aug 01, 2013 Bev rated it it was amazing
Wow, what a captivating read. Generally I'm not inclined to read wartime novels, however I was visually drawn to the book by the cover and the interesting title was the final temptation, enticing me to crack open the pages. After the first couple of chapters I was hooked.

Helen Adams is an American photojournalist in war-torn Vietnam and through the lens of a camera she captures the violence and horrors of war, burned villages and mangled and charred bodies. However, amidst the tragedy Helen find
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Laura
Aug 03, 2013 Laura rated it it was ok
Shelves: bookclub
*eyeroll* What a book. Here's this narrator who is in Vietnam to photograph the war and doesn't know how to load film in her camera, but somehow she's gifted as all heck because a couple pages later she's scored the cover of LIFE magazine! Wheeee! That's one of hundreds of flaws in this character and the storyline. The writing around the relationships in the book was weak, while text describing the war were much stronger. Ultimately I groaned throughout the book, trudged through 2/3rds, and then ...more
Tyler Mcmahon
Jun 01, 2010 Tyler Mcmahon rated it it was amazing
Tatjani Soli’s The Lotus Eaters is a stunning debut novel set in the Vietnam War. Helen Adams drops out of college and makes her way to Saigon, hoping to witness history in the making. She learns the trade of combat photographer from Sam Darrow, a veteran journalist who becomes her lover. Helen conquers her fears, survives combat, and masters the art of distilling a relentless human tragedy down into single images. Like many of the soldiers she documents, Helen is sent home wounded, only to find ...more
Lghamilton
Jan 26, 2014 Lghamilton rated it did not like it
I truly disliked this book. The dislike (spoiler alert) started out when the author describes the evacuation of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. In a split second decision, Helen abandons Linh on the departing helicopter (we've all seen the footage of the mad scramble to get on those last helicopters), but manages to scrounge up PAPER and PENCIL to write a note, PLASTIC BAG in which to place the note, and a STRING with which to secure the bag/note around Linh's note.

Then we are supposed to
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switterbug (Betsey)
Sep 21, 2013 switterbug (Betsey) rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"He was like one of Homer's lotus eaters. He simply forgot all thoughts of return."

The novel opens as the US troops are pulling out of Vietnam in 1975, and photojournalist Helen Adams is walking the streets of Saigon, feeling familiar and close to the city. She's been here over a decade, and is conflicted about leaving this now refugee town to go back to the states.

She walks to the apartment she shares with her lover and also photographer, Linh, a Vietnamese who has been injured. She is anxious
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Lisa (Harmonybites)
Nov 28, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it really liked it
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: Suzanne Dobbins
This was a terrific read, which came through despite my not reading it in the usual way. I tend to be a fast, voracious reader. I'd have ordinarily made my way through this book in a few days, not a few weeks, but lately I've been forced to put my spare time and energy elsewhere. I'm not sure if that was to the benefit or detriment of the book.

The book is set during the Vietnam War and is centered on Helen, an American woman photojournalist and her two lovers--Darrow, an American, Linh, a Vietna
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Serena
Apr 11, 2010 Serena rated it it was amazing
The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli takes place in Vietnam between 1963 and 1975 and becomes a journal of Helen Adams’ evolution into a photojournalist from a young woman chasing the ghosts of her father and brother. The Vietnam War was one of the most controversial in American history, and journalists were on the front lines of the battles — political and physical.

“When they were fired on, the advisers called down airpower, but it dropped short, falling on them and civilians. A free-for-all cluste
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Tasha
update 9/26/11 as I keep thinking about this rating, it just keeps nagging at me. It is not really a 4 star read, for me. I am bumping it down to a 3. I guess it says something about the book that I am struggling with this rating, even days later. But there it is: a 3 star rating.


This is a hard one for me to review. Basically, I'd rate it a 3.5 stars but since i can't, I'll bump it up to 4 stars. For most of the story, I was turned off by the focus of a love story/triangle. I went into the book
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Elyse
Sep 13, 2012 Elyse rated it it was amazing
I loved the 'Lotus Eaters' (I don't think I took time to write reviews on Goodreads at the time when I read it).

I loved 'The Lotus Eaters' so much that I pre-ordered Tatjana Soli's 2nd book "The Forgetting Tree". (which I'm now reading).
Its also 'fantastic'! (very engaging...'a page turner')

My only regret...(I gave away my signed copy of "The Lotus Eaters" (the beautiful hard copy). Some books are worth keeping and re-reading... "The Lotus Eaters" is that type of book!
Damn....(I blew it)....

H
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Donna
Jul 05, 2015 Donna rated it liked it
Shelves: cultural
This book was slow to take off. I didn't feel drawn to the MC or any of the other characters and I seriously wondered if I wanted to finish it. It wasn't until about halfway, that I felt that the MC opened up and began showing emotion. That's also when I started noticing the descriptive strokes in the writing. Some of this was beautiful. But it didn't seem consistent.

I listened to the audio. The narration was great for the most part. The one thing that was a big no-no for me was the misproununc
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Sally
Jun 01, 2015 Sally rated it it was amazing
This may be more of an emotional 5star than a literary one, but this book really got under my skin.
Maybe it's because I read it during Memorial day, or because I came of age during this era, or because friends and family members came home changed forever or didn't come home at all. I could relate to the war stories from their stories or lack there of because it was too difficult to talk about.
Helen was an unusual and very strong woman of that era. Most women who wanted to "participate" in the
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Elizabeth B
Jul 23, 2010 Elizabeth B rated it it was amazing
I jumped into this book as I do all mainstream fiction – fast, furious and expecting to be done in less than an hour. It took three chapters for me to realize this was not the right approach to this novel. So, I started over and began taking my time and savoring each page and turn of phrase. This is not a book for fans of mainstream fiction but stands as a fine example of a new dawn in literary fiction. With little dialogue to move it forward, the book utilizes everyday moments and fabulous desc ...more
David Stanley
Aug 18, 2013 David Stanley rated it really liked it
This is a book that I was sorely disappointed to miss the discussion of with my book group. As I am sure many readers were, I found myself struggling with the protagonist. Was she a selfish irresponsible Westerner, seeking to quite her demons, or make her reputation by displaying the suffering of others. Or was she a fearful lost sole desperately caught in the vice of need. Trying to make something of substance with her pursuits. Looking to make sense of the loss of her brother, searching for th ...more
Meredith Morgan
The first chapter of this novel grabbed me and promised an incomparable story. The rest of the novel never quite fulfilled that promise, but it was a riveting story about love and obsession in the midst the Vietnam war. For the most part it was beautifully written. While the theme might not be highly original, I found the treatment to be engaging and the characters compelling.

Helen Adams is one of the first female photojournalists in Vietnam during the mid-sixties. She went to Vietnam following
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Deborah
Aug 15, 2010 Deborah rated it really liked it
"The Lotus Eaters" is the first novel for the author, Tatjana Soli. The title refers to a passage in Homer's "Odyssey", which the author quotes at the outset of the book and it serves as an appropriate metaphor for the photojournalists of the Vietnam War or any war.
The book's cover doesn't do justice to the story.
Watching the Vietnam War from our living rooms and looking at the photos plastered almost daily in magazines and newspapers, you began to wonder who could watch the events, take the ph
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Belinda
May 30, 2011 Belinda rated it it was amazing
I suspect this will be made into a movie, and the previews will use words like "gritty" and "unflinching". That will be a pity if so, because "The Lotus Eaters" starts there, and goes on to territory that I've rarely experienced in my reading choices as an adult. Helen Adams is a naive, 20-something amateur who wanders into Vietnam in the mid '60s, seeking work as a photographer as she also seeks to wedge her way into the most manly of men's worlds: war.

What kept me plugging away with this book
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Katie
Jun 18, 2012 Katie rated it did not like it
I didn't like this book. Right off the bat, I disliked the female protagonist, which made it difficult to get through 300+ pages with her. I thought she was way too stubborn, and while I'm all for strong female characters, she was grated on me too much. I can't define what it was about her (which makes this a poor book review); I just disliked her. Perhaps it was her disdainful view of Linh at the beginning, who we only find out later is the love of her life.

Oh, and that's another thing: the boo
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Tatjana Soli is a novelist and short story writer. Her bestselling debut novel, The Lotus Eaters, winner of the James Tait Black Prize, was a New York Times Notable Book, and finalist for the LA Times Book Award among other honors. Her stories have appeared in Boulevard, The Sun, StoryQuarterly, Confrontation, Gulf Coast, Other Voices, Third Coast, Sonora Review, and North Dakota Quarterly. Her wo ...more
More about Tatjana Soli...

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“Why did someone fall in love with you because you are one thing and then want you to be something else?” 20 likes
“Pictures could not be accessories to the story -- evidence -- they had to contain the story within the frame; the best picture contained a whole war within one frame.” 18 likes
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