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The Lotus Eaters

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3.83 of 5 stars 3.83  ·  rating details  ·  7,513 ratings  ·  1,268 reviews
A New York Times Best Seller! A New York Times Notable Book!

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 intoSaigon. As the fall of the city begins, two lovers make th...more
ebook, 400 pages
Published March 30th 2010 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2010)
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Amanda
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...more
Staci
Oct 02, 2011 Staci rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
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...more
Book Concierge
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...more
Larry Bassett
Jun 09, 2012 Larry Bassett rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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,...more
Wendy
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
Julie
May 16, 2013 Julie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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...more
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
Jill
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...more
Scott
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
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
Bev
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...more
Gabby
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...more
Susan
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...more
Tyler Mcmahon
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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Nov 28, 2013 Lisa (Harmonybites) rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
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...more
Laura
*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
switterbug (Betsey)
"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...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...more
Deborah
"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...more
Serena
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...more
Judy


I have tirelessly suggested The Lotus Eaters for consideration to all of my reading groups. (Currently I am a member of four.) Finally it was chosen and read for the November meeting of the One Book at a Time group. We meet at a Mexican restaurant in Sunland, CA. We drink margaritas, iced tea and diet coke. We all talk at once. We are writers, lawyers and ex-school teachers. Not everyone finishes their books but the ones who did finish The Lotus Eaters were as enthralled as I was.

The novel opens...more
Danielle
Tatjana Soli's The Lotus Eaters is a really marvelous novel--both lush and beautiful but also brutal and heart-wrenching. As much as I got caught up in the story and wanted to keep reading, I found I could only mange it in small doses. The story follows a young American woman who travels to Vietnam in 1963 to work as a photojournalist and gets so caught up in the war she remains until the bitter end.

I've read very little about the Vietnam War save Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, but I al...more
Karen
This book follows Helen Adams, a photographer who goes off to Vietnam near the start of the war. Soli does a great job, in my opinion, of showing the change in Adams as she lives and works in Vietnam for twelve years. The author also explores many other personalities of war through the other journalists there, the soldiers Adams goes into battle with, and the Vietnamese people. During her time there Adams has two love affairs, one with an already famous photographer, and then later with his Viet...more
Erin
Like one of the other reviewers mentioned on the book cover, this is a book that makes you resent the rest of your life until you've finished it. I let my children run around with a soiled diaper, could barely muster the energy to make dinner, and generally ignored everyone for two days straight to finish this book.

To say that it's a story about Vietnam discredits the book; this is not a solider's tale, not an obvious story about the horrors of war. Helen Adams launches herself into the war with...more
Jinky
(3.5)

This is an investment kind of book. You invest the time and heart and it will pay off. A technically tedious read for me but the perseverance to finish the book was worth it. A superb debut by Ms Soli. She captured a searing perspective of a historical event by telling the story through the fictional lens of a camera and heart of outsiders.

In this novel fashion, humanity amidst a war was played out through Helen's point of view that span a decade. I got a taste of the character of the peop...more
Michelle
Gorgeous novel centered on a female photographer in the Vietnam War. It is difficult to really critique this book because it is so beautifully written and powerful and I cannot do justice to its richness. This is a “war novel” but so much more. The characters from the (initially) green Helen to the dashing Darrow to (my favorite) the conflicted Linh are multilayered and believable, even if the characters are aggravating at times. I do wish the author showed more of Annick. She is introduced earl...more
Kristen Carannante
This novel is a retrospective look at the lives of American photojournalists during the Vietnam War. I liked the format, starting with a very agitating not-quite ending of the story, and then looking back on all that occurred leading up to that ending. It is a graphic description of the horrors of war interspersed with heart-wrenching acts of humanity.

Shown through the eyes of three different characters: Helen, one of few women photojournalists in Vietnam, young and inexperienced; Sam, a dark,...more
Jennifer
Wow - what an amazing book. It starts at the fall of Saigon and backtracks 10 years, following a female photographer around the country. I just loved the main character, her love interests and the way the story unfolds. I borrowed this from the library but I will definitely purchase it for my personal library and read it again.
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Bookworm Buddies: Looking for a Buddy Read - The Lotus Eaters 8/24/14 1 9 Aug 24, 2014 07:23AM  
The Lotus Eaters, by Tatjana Soli 6 70 Feb 08, 2013 05:31PM  
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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
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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?” 15 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.” 14 likes
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