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The Sympathizer

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating details ·  40,061 Ratings  ·  5,168 Reviews
It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is se ...more
Hardcover, 371 pages
Published April 7th 2015 by Grove Press (first published April 2nd 2015)
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Carol Yes, I agree with you. It really dragged for me for quite awhile. I loved the writing and the look at the cultures and Vietnam war years.
I also…more
Yes, I agree with you. It really dragged for me for quite awhile. I loved the writing and the look at the cultures and Vietnam war years.
I also struggled with the lack of conversation quotation marks and/or using new lines for different speakers. That really slowed me down for the first 2/3 of the novel.
He did use spacing and labels towards the end of the book.(less)
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Joe Kraus
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Duy Nguyen
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sympathizer
Being an English major from UCBerkeley and an Artistic Director of Asian American Theater Company for 3 years, I've run across a lot of Asian American works. Though my heart is always with these stories, they've often lacked style. Viet Nguyen has style. He's really funny, in a smart unpredictable way. And I think he's is going to get a lot of awards and all that when word really gets out. Deservedly so because it touches all the big points of Vietnamese American history while never getting bogg ...more
Feb 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Another Update (2nd update)--- I've been reading through my Kindle book again the last few days of this book --looking over my notes -taking new ones.--Our local book club is meeting to talk about "The Sympathizer". 25 of members from around the Bay Area are attending....with 25 others on the waitlist.
For people who live in our area -- this is an important topic. Americans and Vietnamese/Americans live closely together here.
The Vietnamese culture thrives in our city. Right after I read this bo
Angela M
Feb 08, 2017 rated it liked it
This is without a doubt an important story to tell. " ....thousands of refugees wailed as if attending a funeral, the burial of their nation, dead too soon, as so many were, at a tender twenty- one years of age." The writing is as good as I found in The Refugees but I wasn't immediately drawn in and had a difficult time trying to understand what was happening during the evacuation, but I'm guessing that it reflects the reality of what it must have been like. Our narrator, the Captain , a double ...more
Diane S ☔
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Pulitzer Prize winner and I don't always agree, and such is the case here. A very worthy book, a book with so many truisms, such as this one "booted hard by the irony of how revolution fought for independence and freedom could make those things worth less than nothing." The tone is ironic, often satirical but it gets to be too much, wearing on me as I was reading. Almost became a chore to shift through some of this to get to the parts that meant something to me.

I little remember the Vietnam War
Ron Charles
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Forty years ago this month, after a long, deadly release of flatulence from American politicians, the United States evacuated its personnel from Saigon in an operation appropriately code-named Frequent Wind. Whether you were alive then or not, the images of those panicked Vietnamese crushing the U.S. Embassy are tattooed on our collective consciousness.

In the opening pages of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s extraordinary first novel, “The Sympathizer,” that terror feels so real that you’ll mistake your beat
I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds.

With these words Viet Thanh Nguyen decides to start the novel and these two sentences were enough to get me hooked. They managed to intrigue me, to want to know more and set the basis for what will prove to be one of the main theme, the interior conflict of the narrator.

The Symphatizer is a book about the Vietnam War and its aftermath. The book is about loyalty, identity and the difficul
If you ever struggle with your feelings and understanding about America’s role in the Vietnam War, this book could give you a useful framework to both widespread blaming and forms of forgiveness to both sides. There really was no right side to be on, and the Vietnamese people became a pawns in a larger struggle:
Our country itself was cursed, bastardized, partitioned into north and south, and if it could be said of us that we chose division and death in our uncivil war, that was also only partia
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
My mother was native, my father was foreign, and strangers and acquaintances had enjoyed reminding me of this ever since my childhood, spitting on me and calling me bastard, although sometimes, for variety, they called me bastard before they spit on me.

I didn't realize how much I've gotten used to not needing to pay attention to the books I read. Reading this one was as much a chore as it was a joy. Words, sentences, entire paragraphs that required, no . . . demanded I pay heed. Here was inexpli
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: vietnamese, war
The Darkness of Democracy

When Donald Trump blasts "Make America Great Again", it may not be obvious that 'again' has a very specific historical reference: the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, the day the United States lost its first war. This event opens The Sympathizer. The Donald cannot mention Vietnam; it is still too painful and embarrassing a topic in American politics even after more than 40 years. There was no attack on a US ship in the Tonkin Gulf, there were no dominoes waiting to fall
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
So clever and witty but also gripping.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I read this book for many reasons - Pulitzer winner, and a book club pick for my in-person group. We discussed it last night, and I wanted to wait to weigh in until that discussion, but also until I had finished reading the author's non-fiction book Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War (on the long list for the National Book Award as we speak.)

When you read the two books back to back, it is easy to see how the eleven years of research that went into the non-fiction academic treatment
May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Powerful Personalization of Vietnamese and Vietnam War's Fallout [Winner of 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Literature]

This novel profoundly personalized for me the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese in a way no movie or book has. It is written as the first person account of a South Vietnamese captain who was born a "bastard" to a Vietnamese mother who was seduced and impregnated by his father, a Catholic priest, who fails to recognize the captain as a son. The narrator/captain is a sympathizer to the commun
4.5ish stars.

At times hilarious, at others disturbing, and sometimes both at once, this is a story about war, identity, friendship, loyalty and understanding.

I'll admit to not having the most extensive understanding of the Vietnam War. It was before my time and if I was ever taught about it in school (I'm sure it had to have come up at some point, right?) it's lost on me now. My background knowledge basically comes from watching Apocalypse Now (which is the obvious inspiration for a movie in t
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.

Usually, when I write my thoughts about a story, I look for a good quote as a lead in. Sometimes, it's hard to find such a quote, whereas in other cases, I find myself having a luxury of choosing from as many as a dozen good quotes that I loved while reading the novel.

But with Sympathizer, it's just plain crazy. When I reached the last page of the novel, I looked back at the highlighted lines I saved, and I found myself with over EIGHTY different
Feb 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I loved The Refugees. I loved the writing and I loved Viet Thanh Nguyen's perspective on the experiences of Vietnamese refugees in the United States. So I was excited to read The Sympathizer, Thanh Nguyen's Pulitzer Prize winning novel. Unfortunately, I didn't love it in the way I loved The Refugees. I'm conflicted as to why:

-One of Thanh Nguyen's strengths is his incredible writing -- at times playful, often cutting elegantly to the heart of the matter and always strong and intelligent. For tha
Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
"I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds. I am not some misunderstood mutant from a comic book or a horror movie, although some have treated me as such. I am simply able to see any issue from both sides. Sometimes I flatter myself that this is a talent, and although it is admittedly one of a minor nature, it is perhaps also the sole talent I possess. At other times, when I reflect on how I cannot help but observe the world in s ...more
May 19, 2016 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

I can see how The Sympathizer, Viet Thanh Nguyen's complex novel focusing on the post-Vietnam War experience, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction this year. It's plenty thought-provoking and weighty, uncompromsing in its candor. It has a snarky sense of humor. It provides a underrepresented (to contemporary fiction, anyway) viewpoint of the Vietnamese diaspora here in the United States. Would it, though, have gotten my vote for the Pulitzer? Nope. I can think of several titles more dese
Dec 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sono una spia, un dormiente, un fantasma, un uomo con due facce. E un uomo con due menti diverse, anche se questo probabilmente non stupirà nessuno.
I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces. Perhaps not surprisingly, I am also a man of two minds.

E per essere una buona spia la prima regola è non dire bugie, ma verità che possono significare come minimo due cose.
È risultare illeggibile.
È essere un uomo sincero che crede in tutto quello che dice anche quando mente.


È vero,
May 04, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: other-lit
I see the value that this book contributes to American literature. I read New York Times review just a few minutes ago (didn't want anything to interfere with my understanding of the book), and for most part I'd like to agree.

Few years I go when I was still in college, I took this class in art history and the famous Vietnam Veteran Memorial came up. Let's not talk about the architecture's significance, but my young mind at that time was just full of surprise: "What about the South Vietnamese? Wh
Jan 09, 2017 rated it liked it

I’m so disappointed with this book. It started off so strong but then lost me as it went on. A book about the end of the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese refugees that come to America . The narrator, the unnamed Captain, however, is not pro-American. He is a double agent for the Communists. Initially, he is tasked with working as an aide de camp for a South Vietnamese general. He leaves with the general and family to go to America. “I am a spy, a spook, a man of two faces.” He is a sympathizer, bu
I loved Thanh Nguyen's The Refugees, so I was eager to read his Pulitzer winner debut novel.

I'm glad to report that my admiration of Thanh Nguyen's talent remains intact.
There are a gazillion reviews of this novel, so I'll only write some thoughts.

I don't recall ever reading a book about the Vietnam war. I watched some movies on the subject, but they were distinctly American. To be honest, I don't think I grasped what exactly had happened.

The Sympathizer is an important novel, as it's written by
Paula Kalin
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: historical fiction and military/war fans
Recommended to Paula by: Pulitzer
The Sympathizer, written by Viet Thanh Nguyen, is a sweeping novel of Vietnamese and American culture after the fall of Saigon seen through the eyes of a half-French, half-Vietnamese intellectual communist double agent. Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Price for Fiction, the author writes from different perspectives showing us the lives of Vietnamese refugees who settled in America after the war. With beautiful prose, and some humor, The Sympathizer is about war and its aftermath, friendship, and bet ...more
Stephen P
May 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Lovers of the Vitality of Experience
Recommended to Stephen by: Proustitute
Shelves: favorites

So now what is there to do? Still awake and it is four fifteen in the morning. These gales of endless emotions have ripped through these past three hours in my wordless torment and wonder. Devoting myself to whatever feelings swept over me I would not corral them with words. Roped to the mast of a ship I would endure. Waking late this morning there is little difference. Where is time and shouldn’t it being doing its chore to lessen by degree?

Time is one essence captured within the glass earthen
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio-books
13h 53 m narrated by Francois Chau

To begin this review I feel the need to share that as I was listening to the audiobook I began to wonder how books qualify for the Pulitzer Prize. So I did a bit of searching online and discovered that "It( the Pulitzer) recognizes distinguished fiction by an American author, preferably dealing with American life, published during the preceding calendar year. " I then spent sometime perusing the complete list of winners and nominees of this prize since 1917. I
*4.5 stars. Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction as well as several other awards! Pretty impressive for an author's debut novel. I was the fortunate winner of a goodreads giveaway for this book and I heartily thank Grove Atlantic for their generosity.

What is a sympathizer? "To be in sympathy intellectually; to feel or show support for or approval of something."

The narrator of the story, who remains nameless throughout the book and is only known to us as 'Captain,' is writing his confes
Peter Boyle
Jul 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: pulitzer-winner
We've had many examinations of the Vietnam war from the American point of view, but here's one from the opposing side. Our narrator (the unnamed 'Captain') is an aide to an important General in the South Vietnamese nationalist army and also an undercover communist agent. The story begins at the end of the conflict, with the Captain engineering a breathless escape to California from a ruined Saigon, along with the General, several army officials and their families. One of his two closest friends, ...more
Matthew Quann
Apr 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: pulitzers
I’m not sure about the rest of Canada, but I didn’t learn much about the Vietnam War during my high school history classes. WWI and WWII were taught as highlight reel of major events, cliff notes on battles fought, assassinations of Archdukes, and the social fallout of the wars. Little time was spent in the years that followed, though there was usually a slide on the Cold War. Somewhere on that slide the Vietnam War would find itself a bullet point; part of a list rather than a horrid conflict.

Tim Park
Jul 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
...this was a challenging and demanding novel for me... i had to refer to the dictionary seemingly every few pages to look up words, and the lack of quotation marks and proper paragraph use added to the difficulty... but there was a reason for that i guess, which becomes apparent as you read...

the story itself was fascinsting, but for me slow to start... i had to reread the first 30 pages or so... it really started to hook me around page 50 and for most of the book thereafter i was deeply engag
May 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Narrated by a man of mixed race, about a country divided north/south and communist/capitalist, my impression of this year's big prize winner divides along the lines of form and content. This excels thematically, ideologically, intellectually, by underlining and undermining occidental views of the Orient, twisting them around so they're seen from an underrepresented perspective, most obviously for example when about the extras (Vietnamese refugees in the Philippines) during the filming of the Aut ...more
Nancy Oakes
Apr 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
04/18/2016: This book just won this year's Pulitzer Prize Award for Fiction. Well deserved.

for plot, etc., click here to get to my reading journal. Otherwise, carry on.

The narrator of this novel, the titular "sympathizer," is definitely a "man of two faces," and faces a number of contradictions. In fact, this thought-provoking novel is so filled with contradictions that this "two faces" idea runs throughout the book. In the narrator's case, he is a man of mixed parentage, a fact that has help
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Viet Thanh Nguyen is the author of the novel The Sympathizer (Grove Press, 2015). He also authored Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America (Oxford University Press, 2002) and co-edited Transpacific Studies: Framing an Emerging Field (University of Hawaii Press, 2014). An associate professor at the University of Southern California, he teaches in the departments of English and ...more
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“Nothing is ever so expensive as what is offered for free.” 60 likes
“We don’t succeed or fail because of fortune or luck. We succeed because we understand the way the world works and what we have to do. We fail because others understand this better than we do.” 45 likes
More quotes…