M's Reviews > The Lotus Eaters

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli
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Dec 19, 11

bookshelves: 2011, historical-fiction, top-10-of-2011
Read from December 15 to 19, 2011

I found this on a take shelf at work and it sat on my bookshelf there for about 6 months before I brought it home one night, on a whim. I wish I would have done so sooner... It was really, really good.

I hadn't read any historical fiction set during the Vietnam War prior to The Lotus Eaters but reading this novel made me feel like I was there. It was unputdownable. The kind of book that will ruin your life until you turn the last page. The hardcover jacket is misleading. It alludes to a "feminine" read, something akin to Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. A view of a woman's world, closed off and niche in a very non-Western society usually being encroached upon by Western attitudes. This book couldn't be more masculine and at the heart of it is an American photographer--a woman who is trying to play a man's game in a very dangerous place.

The title of the book is the most telling. The NYT Review best explains: "The novel’s title refers to a passage in Homer’s “Odyssey” about a country of lotus eaters, a “race that eat the flowery lotus fruit” and share it — and its opiate comforts — with those who wash ashore, so they won’t want to leave. The metaphor is apt. In Soli’s novel, there are those who eat the fruit of the lotus and those who do not, journalists who experience the country alongside soldiers and those who choose desk jobs back in Saigon. Soli defines the unquantifiable desire that can seduce a person to danger, even to a kind of suicide wish."

More than a glimpse into a country ravaged by war (a war that history books often skipped over in school), this is a novel about what it means to addict and become addicted, adapt and become assimilated to war, to life.

Read this book.
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12/15/2011 page 107
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