Sympathizer: A Novel, The

Viet Thanh Nguyen
One of 2015’s most highly acclaimed debuts, The Sympathizer is a Vietnam War novel unlike any other. The narrator, one of the most arresting of recent fiction, is a man of two minds and divided loyalties, a half-French half-Vietnamese communist sleeper agent living in America after the end of the war.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. But, unbeknownst to the general, this captain is an undercover operative for the communists, who instruct him to add his own name to the list and accompany the general to America. As the general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, the captain continues to observe the group, sending coded letters to an old friend who is now a higher-up within the communist administration. Under suspicion, the captain is forced to contemplate terrible acts in order to remain undetected. And when he falls in love, he finds that his lofty ideals clash violently with his loyalties to the people close to him, a contradiction that may prove unresolvable.A gripping spy novel, a moving story of love and friendship, and a layered portrayal of a young man drawn into extreme politics, The Sympathizer examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2019-03-23

Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (2016), California Book Award for First Fiction (Gold) (2015), PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize Nominee for Shortlist (2016), Edgar Award for Best First Novel (2016), The Center for Fiction First Novel Prize (2015), Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction (2016), Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature for Adult Fiction (2015), International DUBLIN Literary Award Nominee for Shortlist (2017)


The scenes of Americans fleeing Viet Nam, while leaving their translators and everyone else who had assisted or spied at the "mercy" of the enemy, the physical crush, the awfulness of just bugging out at all costs is brought home in this novel, and the US finally gets a decent literary take-down for that whole action. As does Viet Nam itelf. The Sympathizer is a novel about duality, and as such two or more sides of every question are explored and given weight. It's witty, clever (in a good way) and an excellent story. Worthy of the Pulitzer as well as all the other prizes it won. 

Ron CHarles' review in the Washington Post is well worth a read: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/the-sympathizer-a-cerebral-thriller-about-vietnam-and-its-aftermath/2015/03/31/64a0fde6-d3ed-11e4-a62f-ee745911a4ff_story.html?utm_term=.a516a1fa0eba

 

Reviewed: 2017-03-10

This is a masterpiece. It's a must read.
-mm

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