Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Sympathizer” as Want to Read:
The Sympathizer
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Sympathizer

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  90,163 ratings  ·  8,815 reviews
The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as five other awards, The Sympathizer is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-Fr
Kindle Edition, 384 pages
Published April 2nd 2015 by Grove Press
More Details... Edit Details
Featured Notes & Highlights

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Sympathizer, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Eugene Smolenskiy I took much longer with this book than I probably should have, but it wasn't due to lack of enjoyment. Instead, it allowed me more time to reflect on …moreI took much longer with this book than I probably should have, but it wasn't due to lack of enjoyment. Instead, it allowed me more time to reflect on what I had just read. The book is filled with really beautifully-written passages that are worth giving some breathing room to, so it's not always a bad thing to take the pages in piecemeal.(less)
This question contains spoilers... (view spoiler)
Joe Kraus
This answer contains spoilers… (view spoiler)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  90,163 ratings  ·  8,815 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Sympathizer
Duy Nguyen
Mar 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 20, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: war, vietnamese
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
Elyse  Walters
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
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
Diane S ☔
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
Angela M
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
Ron Charles
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 bea
Mar 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So clever and witty but also gripping.
Feb 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Richard (on hiatus)
As the Vietnam war stumbles to a close, America retreats and communist forces sweep in from the north. There is a rush to escape the country. Among the Americans and high ranking local military who hurry to the airbase are a top general of the Vietnamese army and his young right hand man, his captain - the hero or maybe anti-hero of this Pulitzer Prize winning novel - The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen.
The Captain is a deeply conflicted character. Seemingly loyal to the fiercely nationalistic
Elle (ellexamines)
I was in close quarters with some representative specimens of the most dangerous creature in the history of the world, the white man in a suit.

Sympathizer is one of the many books I’ve read for class this year and it’s taken me months to review it because it's just. so. good.

This book’s unnamed narrator is a spy for North Vietnam in the South who ends up going to America on the last plane out. So yes, Sympathizer is a spy story, but not anywhere close to a tone you’ve read before: th
Michael Finocchiaro
I can definitely see why this first book by Viet Thanh Nguyen won the Pulitzer for 2016. A real page turner, it is a dark comedy about the Vietnam War and especially its aftermath seen from the north in a brilliant narrative style. The theme of schizophrenia is abundant and incredibly apt given the relatively little I could know about how Vietnamese people - survivors in country and refugees - despite having friends having lived through those scenarios and at the same time a dead step father who ...more
Violet wells
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's so much going on in this novel, so many tones of voice that it's perhaps impossible to love everything. I had problems with the home run, an extended torture scene which extracts from the narrator the confession which, we learn, is this novel. Here the author overindulged the existentialist aspect of this novel for me which I never found quite convincing. The theme Nguyen chooses to bind together all his material is duality, a theme I found a bit facile and even counterproductive at time ...more
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
May 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Powerful Personalization of Vietnamese and Vietnam War's Fallout [Winner of 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Literature]

This novel 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 communist overthr
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
Mar 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 04, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Sep 09, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
I appreciated the themes of The Sympathizer though the delivery of the themes did not resonate with me. I like how Viet Thanh Nguyen portrays war from the Vietnamese perspective and counteracts the American-centric worldview of most novels and narratives of war. As a Vietnamese American who grew up in the United States myself, I feel like I had been brainwashed into believing the mainstream American perspective of the war, ignoring the United States’ complicity in imperialism and related wrongs ...more
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
Oct 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Jan 09, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Matthew Quann
Apr 18, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

May 12, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Let's read a book about having sex with a dead squid. Because that happens in this book. Somehow I have an ability to pick out books like this. I suppose it's a gift. Just something about me that makes me me.

(Squid sex is only like two pages of three hundred and fifty, but I feel it's one of those things that sort of encapsulates what type of book a book is.)

The Sympathizer is a long book that could have been about one hundred and fifty pages shorter. It's a book of contradictions, such as the
Stephen P(who no longer can participate due to illness)
May 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lovers of the Vitality of Experience
Recommended to Stephen by: Proustitute (on hiatus)
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
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
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Orphan Master's Son
  • Klara and the Sun
  • Interior Chinatown
  • The Underground Railroad
  • The Nickel Boys
  • The Sellout
  • On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous
  • Pachinko
  • Homegoing
  • The Overstory
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad
  • Deacon King Kong
  • Homeland Elegies
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
  • Transcendent Kingdom
  • Shuggie Bain
  • Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning
  • There There
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

Articles featuring this book

Need another excuse to treat yourself to a new book this week? We've got you covered with the buzziest new releases of the day. To create our...
42 likes · 10 comments
“Nothing . . . is ever so expensive as what is offered for free.” 104 likes
“If youth was not wasted, how could it be youth?” 89 likes
More quotes…