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Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam's Madame Nhu
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Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam's Madame Nhu

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  690 Ratings  ·  137 Reviews
In November 1963, the president of South Vietnam and his brother were brutally executed in a coup that was sanctioned and supported by the American government. President Kennedy later explained to his close friend Paul "Red" Fay that the reason the United States made the fateful decision to get rid of the Ngos was in no small part because of South Vietnam’s first lady, Mad ...more
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published September 24th 2013 by PublicAffairs (first published January 1st 2013)
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Dec 06, 2013 Amanda rated it really liked it
Shelves: vietnam, non-fiction, blog, war
"Another focus of the article was on Madame Nhu--a woman who seemed to be a fascinating character to the journalists of the time as I found several references to her in more than one Newsweek article, and as many pictures of her in fashionable dress. It's reported that Diem is little more than the puppet of Madame Nhu and her husband, Ngo Dinh Nhu. She's portrayed as an almost comic book like villain--an Asian femme fatale known as 'the dragon lady' by journalists in Saigon. She is described as ...more
Chậu Tưởng Kí
Mình đọc quyển sách này với nền tảng kiến thưc lịch sử chắc chỉ bằng một đứa tiểu học. Chưa đọc bản gốc nên không biết dịch ra sao nhưng mình cảm thấy ổn (không có lỗi chính tả lỗi ngữ pháp ngớ ngẩn aha), đoạn viết về cuộc đảo chính rất hay và giàu cảm xúc. Tác giả không khai thác cụ thể sức ảnh hưởng của bà Nhu lên hệ thống chính trị (mà chắc các sách khác đã nói nát cả rồi) mà thể hiện bà ở những khía cạnh con người hơn, phụ nữ hơn một cái tên trên giấy. Hồi xưa mà chăm chỉ đọc những sách này ...more
Duy Nguyen
Cho ba sao vì chưa đọc bản gốc, sẽ dành thời gian để đọc bản tiếng Anh. Nội dung bản dịch tạm ổn, nhưng ghét nhất chữ Dragon Lady lại dịch thành Rồng Cái ở một vài chỗ.

Story line hấp dẫn, cầm sách lên chỉ muốn đọc cho đến hết.
Tuan-anh Nguyen
Apr 24, 2016 Tuan-anh Nguyen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Giọng văn và giọng dịch hay, cách viết lôi cuốn, cách sắp xếp nội dung theo trình tự thời gian là hợp lý. Đúng như kỳ vọng trước khi đọc sách, nhiều câu chuyện liên quan tới quá trình thành lập và phát triển của nền Đệ nhất VNCH được mô tả dưới góc nhìn của "người trong cuộc". Đây cũng có thể xem như một cuốn sách "nhập môn" và giải đáp kha khá thắc mắc dành cho những người quan tâm tới Chiến tranh Việt Nam.
Tuy nhiên phần lưu vong hơi quá ngắn so với kỳ vọng, có lẽ vì lựa chọn cuộc sống ẩn dật c
Dec 11, 2013 Linh rated it it was ok
Ba sao cho cuốn sách (thật ra định cho 2 sao nhưng tác giả viết cũng hấp dẫn và có 1 số chi tiết khá thú vị). Một sao cho bản dịch.
Dec 14, 2013 Louise rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography, vietnam
This biography documents the author's search for and connection to her elusive subject. Tran Le Xuan, who became Madame Nhu, goes in and out of Monique Brinson Demery's radar.

With all that has been written on Vietnam, it is surprising how little attention Madame Nhu has received. This could be due to her gender, her unofficial role (other than hostess) in her brother-in-law's government or her being on the losing side of history. The book shows the pivotal role she played. She used her position
Hao Nguyen
Mar 22, 2016 Hao Nguyen rated it liked it
Sách đem lại cái nhìn tổng quát về cục diện thời tổng thống Ngô Đình Diệm ở miền Nam Việt Nam một cách khá bất ngờ. Đã quá quen với cách nhìn một chiều của lịch sử và truyền thông Việt Nam cũng như của những bên chống đối, mình rất thích cách nhìn khách quan và trung lập của tác giả. Vì là người nước ngoài, tác giả đã điểm lại những sự kiện lịch sử và đưa ra nhận xét hai chiều và rõ ràng. Đây là điểm cộng lớn nhất của quyển sách này.

Nhưng đến khi khép lại quyển sách, mình vẫn chưa hài lòng với h
May 24, 2015 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-history
He said, “Meet my sister, Madame Nhu,/the sweetheart of Dien Bien Phu.”
– Phil Ochs, ”Talking Vietnam Blues”

That's not fair, of course: Madame Nhu may have had a hand in various unpleasant things, but Dien Bien Phu was not one of them. It was just a good rhyme for a folk singer perhaps too angry to be interested in fairness. However, it gives you a good idea the profile of Madame Nhu in her day – easily recognized and lampooned.

This book is not quite a success because it ran up against Madame Nhu
Jan 07, 2014 Holly rated it liked it
Interesting look at a person and a time and place I didn't know much about. Reading this book, I realized that I knew very little about Vietnam in the lead up to the Vietnam War. More even then the story of Madame Nhu, I found this information interesting. Madame Nhu herself was definitely a worthy subject for a book, but not a particularly likable one. Though I could admire her for being ahead of the times as far as feminism, she really didn't seem like a good, kind person, but rather a very eg ...more
Patricia Reding
Jun 08, 2013 Patricia Reding rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Desiree
I attended the BEA show in NYC May 29 to June 1 of this year. Passing through a crowd one day, I came upon a book giveaway and so, I got a copy. Settling into my seat on my flight back a day later, I dug in to read.

I grew up during the Vietnam conflict. Though very young at the time, I remember hearing the news and seeing the pictures flash across the television screen. I remember especially, Malcolm Browne's photo of the burning monk. When I went to college, I studied political science and phil
Dec 28, 2013 Ann rated it liked it
I have to give credit to Monique Brinson Demery for her incredible tenacity, spending over 10 years researching this historically reclusive woman. But therein lies the problem. Monique spent much of the book detailing her problems in getting interviews. She never met Madame Nhu in person and had to piece this book together from the erratic phone calls she received.

Madame Nhu is the dragon lady, the woman who used her feminine wiles to influence the Diem regime, leading to its downfall and Americ
Oct 27, 2014 Melinda rated it really liked it
I found this book revealing a tiny bit more of the elusive and very private Madame Nhu. I seriously doubt we will ever know this woman, and frankly I believe she orchestrated this plan. She strikes me as a woman thoroughly taking pleasure in being an enigma, mysterious to the end and even loathed.

Demery confirms this woman possessed a thirst for power, her authoritarian demeanor very apparent, and barbed tongue gained her the title of "Dragon Lady." She never allowed males to control or dictate
Christina Mitchell
Mar 09, 2014 Christina Mitchell rated it liked it
History and politics are my favorite topics for nonfiction reading. This biography of notorious Madame Nhu enticed me from the moment it was discussed in a program segment on NPR. Since so little is known of the Dragon Lady of Vietnam, the biography is fascinating. I must extend caution, however. Demery claims she is in possession of Madame Nhu's memoirs, though it does not seem from the author's commentary that much of these memoirs made it into her biography of Madame Nhu. Demery also talks co ...more
Jul 11, 2016 Suzanne rated it really liked it
Very engaging and a nice, fast read. Recommended for those who are as fascinated by Vietnamese history as I am:)
Jul 30, 2015 Riayl rated it really liked it
First the negative, or maybe more exact would be neutral, thoughts on the book. A pronunciation guide would have been very helpful. I might actually state this as a negative. Had Madame Nhu been a minor mention in a book about JFK or LBJ then I can see not bothering to show pronunciation (lazy, but I can see it). But as this book was very obviously full of Vietnamese names, a pronunciation guide really should have been given. Maybe not everyone feels the same, but I hate knowing that I am most l ...more
Cheryl M-M
May 30, 2013 Cheryl M-M rated it it was amazing
Women in politics. They are often reduced to the clothes they are wearing and the hairstyle they rock. In a predominantly male driven aspect of society the female is usually merely the wife of, daughter of or mistress of a man in power. Not enough women take center stage in government and when they do they are scrutinized and criticized far harsher than their male counterparts.
Madame Nhu was only the sister in law of the man in charge and yet she and her family exerted the strongest influence on
Mar 03, 2017 Lisa rated it it was amazing
I admire an author who sets out n an ambitious path and creates something unexpected even by the author that is so incredibly interesting. The story is personal, this woman who I knew so little about. It is about a country and about geopolitics. It is funny, it is sad it is broad in scope and yet focused on this one person. Ms. demerit tells us about Vietnam and South Vietnam and the US in a way that is not expected. The former First Lady of South Vietnam is a great centerpiece for the story f i ...more
Oct 21, 2014 Kate rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014-books
I received a free copy from to participate in their online book group about this book. It is a biography of Madame Nhu who was the First Lady of South Vietnam in the early 1960s in the years leading up to the war with the Communist North. Her bachelor brother in law was the President and her husband was second in command, although much of the West felt that she was the real ruler. Madame Nhu survives the coup of her family by being in the USA at the time. She then disappears into ...more
Erin Cataldi
Sep 22, 2013 Erin Cataldi rated it really liked it
An intriguing and insightful work on the legend (and the truth) of South Vietnam's Madame Nhu. Before reading this novel I had virtually no idea who she was, where she was from, or why she was important. But after reading this I can say I've learned a great deal and am amazed I hadn't come across this stunning woman earlier!

Monique Brinson Demery does a masterful job of weaving the mysterious Madame Nhu's life together and manages to create a rich tapestry of mystery and intrigue. This novel als
Aug 17, 2015 Laura rated it really liked it
More than anything, reading this book made me realize how little I learned about Vietnam in school. The combination of sources, including conversations with Madame Nhu, made for a well rounded portrait of "the Dragon Lady." The writing style and subject made it much more engrossing than the typical non-fiction.
Christian Shute
Jun 25, 2013 Christian Shute rated it really liked it
This was an excellent biography of a woman misunderstood, vilified, and forgotten. The story of Madame Nhu is the story of Vietnam and America's involvement there. Rather than just the big picture of Cold War politics, this book tells the story of a woman who saw herself as the savior of Vietnam and its women.
Lan Nguyen
Feb 03, 2017 Lan Nguyen rated it it was ok
Không thực sự ấn tượng
Không rõ nét về lịch sử
Không đầy đủ về con người
Nhưng giọng văn chấp nhận được, khá tốt
Ngoc Le
Jan 14, 2017 Ngoc Le rated it really liked it
Một thước phim ngắn lướt qua các sự kiện lịch sử từ 1802 đến 1995 trong đó bà Nhu là nhân vật chính. Một đệ nhất phu nhân không chính thức của Việt Nam Cộng hoà, một bộ óc lớn bên trong một con người nhỏ bé.
Một phụ nữ khôn ngoan, lạnh lùng, khát khao quyền lực, tạo ảnh hưởng ghê gớm đến lịch sử Việt Nam. Mạnh mẽ, kiên định nhưng vẫn ẩn khuất đâu đó nỗi buồn về một tuổi thơ bị cha mẹ hắt hủi và một cuộc sống gia đình thiếu hạnh phúc.
Cuốn sách này nếu xếp loại mình sẽ xếp loại vào sách về lịch s
Viviane Crystal
Nov 09, 2014 Viviane Crystal rated it really liked it
The story of Madame Nhu begins with her life as an upcoming bride living in a Vietnam laced with French dominion and influence. She is about to marry a man who will eventually become the Prime Minister of Vietnam, the man who will wield the real power behind President Ngo Dinh Diem as nations and revolutionary groups vie for power, prestige, and style in Vietnam. For now Tran Le Xuan, Nhu’s name in her youth), is excited about her marriage and upcoming family status. But intrigue is omnipresent ...more
Tiểu Chồn
Lại một quyển sử nữa nhưng đã có ít kinh nghiệm từ quyển Z.21 nên mình không nóng vội đọc cho xong, cuối cùng cũng xong 1 mission :))
1. Đây là 1 nhân vật lịch sử theo mình là rất thú vị, 1 người phụ nữ nhỏ bé nhưng khuấy đảo chính trường Việt Nam, thay đổi lịch sử kinh khủng khiếp. Ko hẳn là thích hay ghét, khen hay chê, chỉ là một cái nhìn khác về một nhân vật trái chiều. Dĩ nhiên cảm nhận chính xin được đúc rút qua 1 cmt đọc dc đâu đó "đằng sau 1 người đàn ông thất bại là 1 người đàn bà xui dạ
Apr 11, 2016 MyNguyen1709 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir, history
Mua cuôn sach vê va đoc liên tuc trong nhưng khoang thơi gian ranh cua 3 ngay đươc ơ nha. Minh bi cuôn hut vao tưng trang sach, không thê rơi xuông. Demery giup minh hinh dung ra môt bôi canh lich sư Viêt Nam giai đoan 1950 - 1970 toan canh hơn, hinh dung vê ba Trân Lê Xuân tư nhiêu gôc nhin khac nhau - co nhưng ngươi đông cam, ngương mô va co nhưng ngươi căm ghet ba. Co le minh thuôc nhom ngươi sau khi đoc xong thi danh nhiêu thiên cam hơn la ac cam danh cho Ba Nhu. Ba đep, sang trong (co thê t ...more
Khoa Dang
Aug 17, 2016 Khoa Dang rated it really liked it
Definitely a good read for history fans, this book is a journey back to the past that uncovers obscure corners of a turbulent time in Vietnam's history. The story surrounded the eventful life of a woman, somebody notoriously named "the Dragon Lady".
Tran Le Xuan was one of the most mysterious and yet influential figure in the 20th-century Vietnam. As the First Lady of South Vietnam, she had more than her fair share of political limelight, meddling with the country's current affairs, manipulating
Walk-Minh Allen
Aug 11, 2014 Walk-Minh Allen rated it really liked it
The name "Madame Nhu" conjured for me the image of a political puppeteer who through sheer will and enigmatic beauty could influence anyone in her path with either the wave of her hand or the swipe of her caustic tongue. Only tangentially did I know anything about Madame Nhu from reading brief descriptions about her, here and there, in other books about the Vietnam War. In my younger years, I remember watching news footage of her during the Buddhist crisis and listening to her notoriously remark ...more
Tú Anh
Feb 14, 2017 Tú Anh rated it liked it
Một người phụ nữ tham vọng, biết mình cần gì và làm thế nào để đạt được nó. Những người phụ nữ như vậy ít nhiều sẽ khiến đàn ông phải dè chừng. Madam Nhu là một ví dụ khi đã thể hiện sực nặng quan trọng của bản thân trong bộ máy chính quyền Ngô Đình Diệm. Dù là một người không mấy khiến người đương thời thích thú khi nhắc đến tên nhưng thật sự tôi vẫn dành niềm cảm phục đối với bà.
Viet Lam
Dec 15, 2013 Viet Lam rated it really liked it
Having listened to Mrs. Demery's interview on The Daily Show, I got a copy from the library and started reading. I appreciate the background information that Mrs. Demery provided, and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in Vietnamese history!

Being born in Vietnam myself, and younger than her children, I have certain bias against Madam Nhu. The "barbecued monk" comment really rubbed me the wrong way. But, have resided in the US for quite a while, I am open minded enough to try to see w
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Monique Demery's first book, Finding the Dragon Lady: The Mystery of Vietnam's Madame Nhu, will be published in September, 2013 by PublicAffairs Books.

Monique graduated from Hobart and William Smith Colleges and received a Master's degree in Asian Studies from Harvard University. She lives with her family in Chicago, IL.
More about Monique Brinson Demery...

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“How did a woman who was not even forty years old—and barely five feet tall in heels—come to command the full attention of a superpower like America” 0 likes
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