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The Lotus Eaters

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  10,386 Ratings  ·  1,541 Reviews
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. 

On a stifling day in 1975, the North Vietnamese army is poised to roll into Saigon. As the fall of the city begins, two lovers make their way through the streets to escape to a new life. Hele

Kindle Edition, 386 pages
Published (first published March 29th 2010)
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Elizabeth Wellington I am so very picky and this was one of the best books I've read in a long time. I am amazed that it has not reached the literary heights of other…moreI am so very picky and this was one of the best books I've read in a long time. I am amazed that it has not reached the literary heights of other complicated love stories set during a time of war-- The English Patient for example. It is a really well-crafted, spectacular story with characters I found to be very compelling. And to my mind, yes--they were absolutely believable. Truly adventurous women should be given the credit they deserve... (less)

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In the final days of a falling Saigon, this story is told of photographers covering the war. But more importantly, it's told from the point of view of a woman photographer. Helen Adams is young, she drops out of college and goes to Vietnam as she wants to go before the war is over. Also, her brother was killed there and she wants to find out more about it. Her story is told of her two lovers and fellow photographers. Linh, a local Vietnamese man who is haunted by his past and Darrow, an American ...more
Jun 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: vietnam, nancy-pearl
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
Dec 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Staci by: TLC Tour Book
Shelves: 2011-reads
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
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
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
Apr 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Julie Christine
Mar 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie Christine 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
Sep 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very atmospheric and at times brutal novel about the Vietnam War. Three intriguing main characters, Helen Adams a photo journalist, her colleague, reporter Sam Darrow, and a Vietnamese former soldier, Linh, who becomes a photojournalist in his own right. The inevitable love affairs (sequential, not simultaneous!) never quite rang true for me and there was something flat about the characters that I could not pin down, but I appreciated it for the extraordinary descriptions of battles and of a bea ...more
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
Larry Bassett
Oct 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  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,
Jan 04, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-fiction
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
Apr 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Susan (aka Just My Op)
May 10, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Susan (aka Just My Op) by: Tara
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
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub
*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)
May 19, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"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
Tyler Mcmahon
May 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the 'Lotus Eaters' (I don't think I took time to write reviews on Goodreads at the time when I read it).

I loved 'The Lotus Eaters' so much that I pre-ordered Tatjana Soli's 2nd book "The Forgetting Tree". (which I'm now reading).
Its also 'fantastic'! (very engaging...'a page turner')

My only regret...(I gave away my signed copy of "The Lotus Eaters" (the beautiful hard copy). Some books are worth keeping and re-reading... "The Lotus Eaters" is that type of book!
Damn....(I blew it)....

Nov 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone

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
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jun 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Mindy McAdams
I have very mixed feelings about this novel. A lot of good things here -- not least, a central character who is a photojournalist and a woman, in Vietnam during the American war years there. At some points, the writing made me feel like I was there -- not in the Vietnam I know only a little, from a few weeks of travel, but in that Vietnam my child-mind imagined when the war was on TV and the cover of Life magazine.

The other side of my experience while reading was a sense of doubt. So many thing
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
Apr 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 15, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I truly disliked this book. The dislike (spoiler alert) started out when the author describes the evacuation of Saigon at the end of the Vietnam War. In a split second decision, Helen abandons Linh on the departing helicopter (we've all seen the footage of the mad scramble to get on those last helicopters), but manages to scrounge up PAPER and PENCIL to write a note, PLASTIC BAG in which to place the note, and a STRING with which to secure the bag/note around Linh's note.

Then we are supposed to
Jun 02, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cultural
This book was slow to take off. I didn't feel drawn to the MC or any of the other characters and I seriously wondered if I wanted to finish it. It wasn't until about halfway, that I felt that the MC opened up and began showing emotion. That's also when I started noticing the descriptive strokes in the writing. Some of this was beautiful. But it didn't seem consistent.

I listened to the audio. The narration was great for the most part. The one thing that was a big no-no for me was the misproununc
Whitney Bermes
This book was a Christmas gift. It was OK. Interesting plot, but the writing so-so. Not much diversity in how characters talked. They all spoke the same way, which was frustrating to read.
Nov 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I suspect this will be made into a movie, and the previews will use words like "gritty" and "unflinching". That will be a pity if so, because "The Lotus Eaters" starts there, and goes on to territory that I've rarely experienced in my reading choices as an adult. Helen Adams is a naive, 20-something amateur who wanders into Vietnam in the mid '60s, seeking work as a photographer as she also seeks to wedge her way into the most manly of men's worlds: war.

What kept me plugging away with this book
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The Lotus Eaters, by Tatjana Soli 8 84 Jan 14, 2018 11:12PM  
Bookworm Buddies: Looking for a Buddy Read - The Lotus Eaters 8/24/14 1 13 Aug 24, 2014 07:23AM  
  • The Disappeared
  • The Surrendered
  • The Man from Saigon
  • This Burns My Heart
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  • The Eaves of Heaven: A Life in Three Wars
  • When Heaven and Earth Changed Places: A Vietnamese Woman's Journey from War to Peace
  • The Sandalwood Tree
  • The Bells
  • The Wives of Henry Oades
  • A Dangerous Friend
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  • The House on Dream Street: Memoir of an American Woman in Vietnam (Adventura Books)
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Tatjana Soli is an American novelist and short-story writer. Her first novel, The Lotus Eaters (2010), won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Book Prize, was a New York Times Bestseller, and a New York Times 2010 Notable Book. Her second novel, The Forgetting Tree (2012) was a New York Times Notable Book. Soli's third novel, The Last Good Paradise, was among Th ...more
More about Tatjana Soli...

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“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.” 23 likes
“Why did someone fall in love with you because you are one thing and then want you to be something else?” 19 likes
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