Kathryn K. (Oceanside, CA)
The best read of 2010
The Lotus Eaters, by Tatana Soli harkens the reader back the Viet Nam era; a time of dissent, passion and pain for the American people. One might ask why would you want to revisit that period of our history. But this is a story you don’t want to miss!
You will experience the war from the perspective of a young female photo journalist named Helen, who learns what war is and the havoc it can play in everyday life. The characters in this story are finely drawn and very human. The love story that unfolds is poignant and powerful. Viet Nam becomes a place of more than war torn tragedy for the reader and for the characters whose lives are entangled in page turning plots that doesn’t let you go until the last page.
I find myself thinking about the book and will be so glad when it is published so I can discuss it with other readers, It will make a great book club read. Could I have already found the best read of 2010?
Ann D. (CLEARFIELD, PA)
A Journey Back
A beautifully written novel, not just about war, The Lotus Eaters captures the beauty of the country and its people during the horror of the Vietnam War. Helen Adams, an ill-equiped American photojournalist, who when faced with the reality of combat, decides to stay and do the work that no one else feels she is cut out for. Once committed, she may never go back.
By getting a close tight shot the camera can capture the soul of its subject. Tatjana Soli has done just that in her character development, and the drama staged between them. Her use of prose frames each scene in a way that will draw the reader in only to "to forget all thoughts of return.
This is a fabulous read and Tatjana Soli is an author to watch.
Ilene W. (Royal Oak, MI)
The Lotus Eaters
First novels, as The Lotus Eaters is, are usually some of the finest reads. But the plot of this book was like an endless loop: the heroine, Helen Adams, is afraid of photographing the Vietnam war and equally afraid of what the other journalists think of her. Then she faces her fears, is successful, and goes on to cover the next battle, afraid of photographing the ... you get the picture. I saw no real character development and we know as much about Helen at the end of the book as at the beginning. The plot slogs along, with some predictable events. What redeems this book, however slightly, is the insight it gives into the Vietnamese culture.
Robert G. (Takoma Park, MD)
Wounded Birds of War
This novel pulls the reader in with old-fashioned powerful storytelling. It offers tension, atmosphere, compelling characters, strong plot. But what makes "The Lotus Eaters" special - and maybe a little amazing because presumably the author did not experience this place at this time herself - is the depiction of war-time Vietnam.
Though the primary focus appears to be on the American perspective, largely through the eyes of the photojournalist Helen, what comes across as more complex and more unique is the Vietnamese perspective. It is borne mostly by Linh, Soli's strongest creation, but also by minor characters such as Mr. Bao, Grandmother Suong and the orphan Lan. It is not just that the Americans don't really understand what is going on here, but that for all their firepower and wealth, they hardly matter.
Soli gives us breathtaking images, not just the ones of war but just as memorable scenes such as the young women singing love songs on the riverbanks, the tiger appearing like a dream image in a high mountain clearing.
It is not a perfect book. There are many jarring point of view shifts in mid-paragraph. The story really took hold beginning in chapter two and remained hard to put down through chapter thirteen, then flagged a bit. Helen's quest, especially when it moves outside Vietnam, is uneven in its hold on the reader.
But overall it is a moving, absorbing, masterfully told story.