Vietnam is remembered by images, vivid scarring
images. A little girl burned by napalm
runs screaming down the street, a news segment on TV with a man held captive, a
gun to his head, the next instant blown apart, we sat at home, a world away,
looking at the carnage and suffering.
Those images will stay with me even though I have never stepped foot in
Vietnam. They made the war horribly real
and I don’t think I will ever get them out of my mind. The images were taken by photo-journalists,
people who risked their lives right along with the troops to bear testimony to
the outrage of war. When we think of women in Vietnam we think of nurses,
rushing madly to try help patch back together the broken bodies of our young
men. But women played other roles too.
Catherine LeRoy, a French photo-journalist, arrived in Vietnam in 1966, she was
captured by the Viet Cong in 1968 and not only talked them into releasing her
but also into allowing her to photograph her captors. Dickey Chappelle landed
with the marines at Iwo Jima in WWII. She went with her cameras wherever the
stories of war took her, even jumping out of perfectly good airplanes with
paratroopers to land in the thick of the action. She died on patrol with marines in Vietnam on
1965. Barbara Gluck photographed Viet Cong troops
for the cover of the New York Times.
Some remarkable women risked heir lives along with the men. The Lotus Eaters by Tatiana Soli is a rich complicated novel about such a woman. Helen feels compelled to go to Vietnam after
her brother dies in combat. Her
preparation for photo-journalism is taking pictures for the school newspapers,
woefully inadequate at best. But she
learns, and as she learns the war takes over her life. She bears witness with her pictures to the
suffering, the carnage, the inhumanity of war.
She shows the honor of soldiers sent to fight and die by men in
government far away in the safety of their offices. She walks into the jungle with these brave
men, enduring leeches, hardship, and danger by their side. Fast paced and engaging, The Lotus Eaters, is also the
story of Helen’s love for two men. Sam
Darrow is an award winning photojournalist, his pictures on the cover of Life
magazine. He takes Helen under his wing,
allowing her a bit of his magic, teaching her to frame the right shot that
tells a truth far more vividly than prose.
Sam is larger than life, a legend.
Linh is a Vietnamese photojournalist, he perfectly shows the conflicts
of the Vietnamese. North and South were
too simple a description for their complex loyalties and ties. Linh is a sympathetic character, a man
savaged by the losses of war. Helen brings him back to life and he tries his
best to keep her in one piece. A formidable task given the times and her
dedication to getting the right shot, bearing witness to the war. Tatjana Soli
has written a story that puts a woman in an active role during wartime. Helen confronts her fears, grows, sacrifices,
takes chances, and falls in love. How
the war changes this woman, matures her and obsesses her gives the book its
— Deon Stonehouse
April 2010 Indie Next List
“Unlike any other story of war I've read, The Lotus Eaters sees the beauty amidst the destruction as only a story told through the eyes of a photographer can. It is at once a sweeping love story, a tragedy of humanity, and a fresh look at a war that transformed everything.”
— Julia Callahan, Book Soup, West Hollywood, CA
- Winner of UK's James Tait Black Prize
- New York Times Notable Book of 2010
- American Library Association 2011 Notable Book
- Finalist LA Times Book Award
- A Kirkus Reviews Top Debut Fiction of 2010
- Bookmarks Magazine Best Literary Fiction of 2010
In the final days of a falling Saigon, The Lotus Eaters unfolds the story of three remarkable photographers brought together under the impossible umbrella of war: Helen Adams, a once-naïve ingénue whose ambition conflicts with her desire over the course of the fighting; Linh, the mysterious Vietnamese man who loves her, but is torn between conflicting loyalties to his homeland and his heart; and Sam Darrow, a man addicted to the narcotic of violence, to his intoxicating affair with Helen and to the ever-increasing danger of his job. All three become transformed by the conflict they have risked everything to record.
In this much-heralded debut, Tatjana Soli creates a searing portrait of three souls trapped by their impossible passions, contrasting the wrenching horror of combat and the treachery of obsession with the redemptive power of love.
About the Author
Tatjana Soli is the bestselling author of The Lotus Eaters, The Forgetting Tree, and The Last Good Paradise. Her work has been awarded the UK’s James Tait Black Prize and been a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Her books have also been twice listed as a New York Times Notable Book. She lives on the Monterey Peninsula of California.
“A haunting debut novel…quietly mesmerizing…” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“Devastatingly awesome…It's one of those books that I didn't want to put down -- I resented everything else that I needed to do in my life, because I didn't want to stop reading it.” —Nancy Pearl, NPR
“35 years after the fall of Saigon, Soli's entrancing debut brings you close enough to feel a part of it.” —People
“A haunting world of war, betrayal, courage, obsession, and love.” —Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried
“You must read The Lotus Eaters, Tatjana Soli's beautiful and harrowing new novel. Its characters are unforgettable.” —Richard Russo, author of That Old Cape Magic
“The very steam from Vietnam's jungles seems to rise from the pages of Tatjana Soli's tremendously evocative debut…A beautiful book.” —Janice Y. K. Lee, author of The Piano Teacher