The Sympathizer The Sympathizer discussion


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Angela, Esil and Diane discuss

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Diane S ☔ Starting Feb, 1


Angela M Looking forward to this !


Esil I'll start Wednesday too!


Diane S ☔ Page count for the book is 371, do you want to read a set amount of pages per day so we are all at the same place and can discuss without spoilers?


Esil I just started it. Your suggestion works for me Diane, although I'm reading it on my kindle and for some reason am not getting page numbers. Could we perhaps read one or two chapters per day?


Diane S ☔ two per day is good I think, easily manageable with the other books I am reading.


Richard   Hollenbeck Hello, I'm new to Goodreads and am interested in joining this discussion. I read this book last November but would love to participate. How does this work? It looks like the discussion is daily--is that right (two chapters per). Just comments during the day or a certain time? Thanks for your help.


Angela M Diane S ☔ wrote: "two per day is good I think, easily manageable with the other books I am reading."

Two chapters per day works for me too . I don't usually read more than one book at a time but I think I can manage . I'll start it tonight.


Angela M Richard wrote: "Hello, I'm new to Goodreads and am interested in joining this discussion. I read this book last November but would love to participate. How does this work? It looks like the discussion is daily--is..."

Richard , you are welcome to chime in but since you have read the book already , please be careful not to discuss the book as a whole or anything beyond the 2 chapters we have decided to read each day. The three of us have not read the book and have chosen to read it and discuss together as we go along . No,spoilers , please .


Richard   Hollenbeck got it.


message 11: by Esil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Esil I've read the first two chapters. I love the writing. It reminds me of what I loved about the author's writing in The Refugees. I do feel like I'm still trying to orient myself in terms of the plot -- who is who, and the politics at issue. I think I'm going to have to do a bit of reading about Vietnam and the war on the side to get the full benefit of this one.


Angela M 1-2
The writing is as good as I found in The Refugees but in Ch 1 , I wasn't immediately drawn in trying to understand what was happening. His dual allegiance is foreshadowed when he says " I am simply able to see any issue from both sides. I flatter myself that this is a talent ... "
In Ch 2 , I was more interested as the stage is set for how he will conduct his dual role as he goes to America. I was reminded of the mixed feelings that people had about this war and was reminded of someone I knew in high school was killed in Vietnam. I'm hoping I can get more engaged, but it's early.


Angela M Felt much the same as you , Esil .


Diane S ☔ Very descriptive writing. My hubby was in the air force at the tail end of the war. Never got sent overseas but unloaded plenty of body bags here in the states. He is several years older than I, so my remembrances of this war is scant.

Thought in the first two chapters he explains the insanity of this war and the confusion when everyone was trying to get out, before it all collapsed or should say as it was collapsing. Satirical tone, but an underlying seriousness all the same. Money talks, as it usually does, that and connections.


Charlie Mascia Hello,
I myself am also new to goodreads. I picked up reading as a more steady practice recently and The Sympathizer is only the sixth or seventh book in my campaign to read more, I myself have only just started a few days ago. I am on Chapter 8 myself, once you are caught up I would love to join in on the discussion! Also I'd love any book suggestions from any more veteran readers who have solid recommendations, I'm interested in just about everything nd would love to try some new stuff.


message 16: by Esil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Esil Just finished chapters 3 and 4. I really struggled with chapter 3. I may have the attention of a gnat these days, but I had trouble following it, which to some extent undercut the sadness of some of what happened. But I'm feeling fully engaged by chapter 4. I especially love the end of the chapter where he describes in broad strokes the experience of Vietnamese refugees. I'm not finding the narrator particularly sympathetic, but I'm starting to appreciate the complexity of his position and outlook.

You describe the tone perfectly, Diane, when you say that it is satirical with underlying seriousness.

It's nice that the weekend is upon us which will give me a bit more time to focus!


Angela M Esil , I totally agree about being confused over what was happening in Ch3 but I'm suspecting that it reflects the reality of what it must have been like . I'm not connecting with our protagonist yet either.
I'm a little behind but will be reading Ch4 this am when I'm in the tread mill and bike . I'll come back later . I'm still really impressed with the writing.


Angela M Ch4 : I was very moved by some of the scenes. The old woman and others angry and grieving throwing their shoes . Also heartbreaking with Bon losing his wife and child. And these are only a few of who knows how many deaths .

"Joins a line to turn in our trays to the dishwashers was the coup de grace, pronouncing us no longer adult citizens of a sovereign county, but stateless refugees, protected, for the moment, by the American military."
" ....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."
Definitely a story to tell here. I need to understand a little more the dual allegiance.


message 19: by Diane S ☔ (last edited Feb 03, 2017 02:51PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Diane S ☔ Reminds me somewhat of what is going on in Syria. People desperate to get out, living in huge tent cities. Refugees. The more things change, the more they stay the same, as they same. Did feel so awful for Bon, and liked that part too Angela. The general still thinking he is a big man but finding out he is no longer anything.


Angela M Yes. I thought of the Syrian refugees as I read that too , Diane

I didn't get to 5& 6 today but will tomorrow . (I just finished Beartown and couldn't put it down.)


Diane S ☔ Will never look at squid in quite the same way again. That's all I will say until you catch up Angela so as not to leave a spoiler.


message 22: by Esil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Esil I read chapter 5 last night, and understand the squid reference, Diane. Yup! Quite the image! I've fallen a bit behind. I'm planning to read chapters 6-8 today.


Angela M Ch 5 -6

And I'm with you Diane , I'll never think of squid in the same way ! Omg - gross!
But he does make a good point about what is really obscene- massacre and torture and 3 million dead . Thankfully I've never had squid and don't intend to!

I'm just not connecting with our Captain here. I don't think I like him very much but yet feel for some of the other refugees he describes - lost but trying to figure it out . I am getting a picture of what it must have been like for the Vietnamese refugees. I hope who he is becomes clearer but maybe that's the point ? I might like him more if he felt strongly for one side or another.


Diane S ☔ I think he is himself conflicted, but it does show what a mess this was, even after it was supposedly over.


Angela M Definitely a mess and maybe his being conflicted reflects the conflicted feelings and beliefs there were about this war in general.


Angela M Ch 7/8
What I'm finding interesting is how the war is still going on for the refugees even after being in America for a while. I'm a bit confused over what they are trying to do . Maybe I'm not focusing enough. In all honesty, I'm not into this book as much as I had hoped . Plugging away in hopes it will get better. Will get to Ch 9 & 10 today .
Curious to hear what you are both thinking at this point .


message 27: by Esil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Esil I just read chapters 6, 7 and 8, and I'm exactly of the same mindset as you Angela. I'm having trouble feeling engaged by the book overall and a bit lost in the plot. There's a lot I like: I still like the writing and I like some of the individual scenes and observations about the experience of being a Vietnamese refugee in the US. But overall, I feel like I'm working at it rather than enjoying it. Hopefully, we'll turn a corner soon. I'll be reading chapters 9 and 10 later today too.


message 28: by Diane S ☔ (last edited Feb 06, 2017 04:38AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Diane S ☔ Love the writing, he has some brilliant ways of phrasing things. Still remind me of the refugee crisis now, especially the scenes at the wedding, talking about acceptance and lack of acceptance by many of the people in the country. Think they are still plotting, the war for many not yet over. I can't imagine living as a spy, always having to be something you are not, looking over your shoulder. After the killing of the crapulent major, I think he conscience is beginning to bother him more and more. I am interested in seeing how he gets captured.


message 29: by Esil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Esil I like your take, Diane. It's going to help me refocus as I read further.


Angela M Your perspective. Diane is helpful to me as well . Thanks.


Diane S ☔ I think everything is so very descriptive, maybe too much so. Also the satiric tone gets a little tiring as well.


message 32: by Esil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Esil I just finished chapter 10 involving the movie shoot in the Philippines. I kept thinking that I liked aspects of the story -- for example, the gap between the story the movie is telling and the narrator's experience of Vietnam, and also the narrator's anxiety over why "boat people" continued to leave Vietnam. And I also continue to generally like the writing. But it's still not coming together as an engaging whole.

I tend to agree about the satiric tone, Diane. It creates a distance that becomes tiresome. Although, I guess the tone is directed at the Commandant, and at some point we'll find out who this is being written to and why.


Angela M I'm almost halfway through. Just finished Ch 11 and I'm feeling a bit more "sympathetic" to the Captain and like you Esil appreciated this part of the story more than earlier. I felt more of a connection not with him but with his connection to the people of Vietnam . Also poignant description of his relationship with his mother .

I still like the writing but I'm not sure if that alone will be enough for a high rating. But I'm only half way through.

The other thing I forgot to mention earlier is the lack of quotation marks. It usually doesn't bother me but a lot of the time I have to reread to see who is speaking and that's a little annoying.


Diane S ☔ Felt so sorry for him when as a child of six he is given only half of what his cousins are given, because of his birth,


message 35: by Esil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Esil I just finished chapters 11 and 12. I'm starting to enjoy the rhythm of the Captain's thoughts, moving seamlessly from the present to the past.

But mostly, I continue to enjoy some of the parts more than the whole, like his description of when his mother told him who his father was and his visit with the widow. Some of the writing is truly superb.


Angela M I am up to chapter 12 . Since I don't usually read more than one book at a time , I feel as though I'm losing the continuity of the story by reading another book in between. My narrow focusing mind I guess. I'm going to read the rest straight through. I'll make notes by the chapters and comment up to that point so I don't give any spoilers . :)


message 37: by Diane S ☔ (last edited Feb 07, 2017 07:32AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Diane S ☔ Do love the writing. I always read more than one book so this doesn't bother me, but do, what you feel you need too, Angela. Do understand.

I loved how he referred to hypocrites as satin bilinguals, going to try to remember that phrase.


Angela M I'll still comment in between without spoilers. The writing is as good as I found it in the Refugees and I do feel more for our Captain as we hear about his past .

I admire those of you who can read multiple books ! It just doesn't work for me . I find myself gravitating to one and then end up reading one at a time !


message 39: by Esil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Esil Angela -- no need to apologize for deciding to plow through with the rest of the book. It's only recently that i started reading a few books at a time, but I do find it challenging to read more than one work of fiction at a time.

I just finished chapters 13 and 14. I'm not sure what I think about the long passage about cleavage! But otherwise I'm enjoying it more. I'm really getting a feel for the multiple levels to the Captain's divided loyalties. It's an odd life to live amongst one group of people while your loyalty or allegiance lies somewhere else. He is forever hurting people he ostensibly doesn't want to hurt. It makes for a complicated life -- practically and emotionally.


Angela M I definitely agree that his position is a tough one . Even though it's taken me a while to have any connection with him at all , there are times when I feel sorry for him . I did at the end of the film.

Definitely not for the prudish- between the squid scene and the cleavage passage!

I have a few chapters left and will finish tonight but I will be careful.


Diane S ☔ I didn't much care for the movie chapter, though it served the purpose of making our spook seem more human, noticing the differences. Keep thinking how this is related to what is happening today, people judged all the same, this time because of religion instead of political affiliation.


message 42: by Esil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Esil Diane -- It's definitely hard not to dwell on some of the things happening today while reading The Sympathizers.

I just finished chapter 15 and am partway through chapter 16. I liked The Captain's explanation about why he thought Dr. Steed's book about Vietnam was interesting -- you often learn about people by seeing what they think about you.

Overall -- the reading experience still feels like work to me, with occasional flashes of brilliance.

Angela -- from my perspective, there's no need to wait for me to finish before you post your review. I'm actually am curious about your final impression.


Diane S ☔ Fine with me too, Angela. Feels like a chore to me too, Esil and
i am willing to bet Angela will be glad to be done with it.


message 44: by Esil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Esil Oh dear! I like the idea of a buddy read. I hope we can find another book maybe in a few months that we can read together and enjoy more!


message 45: by Angela M (last edited Feb 09, 2017 06:25PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Angela M I agree it felt like a chore for me too and I don't think it was because of reading a few chapters at a time . I think because I had a hard time going back to it . I like what you said about occasional flashes of brilliance , Esil . My overall view of the book was influenced by the material at the end book in a positive way . But even with that and the brilliant writing at times, this would be 3 stars for me , maybe 3.5 . Will work on a review.

I totally agree , Esil , we should find another to do as a buddy read . We each have so many ARCs , there's bound to be one we can read together! Yes , Diane I was glad to be finished with it !


message 46: by Esil (new) - rated it 3 stars

Esil I just read chapters 17 and 18. There continue to be interesting tidbits and great writing: the airport scene with the General and his wife, the Captain's reaction to watching the film, and the ghosts of the Major and Sonny in particular. The scene involving the leg was a bit much. I just ended on a bit of a cliffhanger as it appears that the Captain is about to come face to face with the famous Commandant.

I might plow through and finish over the weekend. Happy Friday my friends!


Angela M I have posted my review with my 3 star rating since you guys didn't mind that I went ahead. Can't wait to see your final thoughts as well .
Have a great weekend!


Diane S ☔ Am at the part where he is going to meet the commissar. It seems to me that it is not only a question of being on the supposed right side, but how you are on that side. According to those who now hold the power. Hope to finish tomorrow.


Diane S ☔ Angela, agree with your review and will more than likely rate it the same. Will be glad to be done.


Diane S ☔ Do either of you have the arc of Eveningland: Stories?


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