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Nicole B. (New York, New York)
A Stunning Debut
Complex characters, a riveting portrayal of the atrocities of the Vietnam War, and glimpse into the live of the photojournalists tasked with covering the war had me transported completely throughout the duration of the novel. Soli is adept at fully shading the emotions of her characters so that you feel for them as they not only make decisions for themselves but endure heartbreak at the decisions of others. Helen is a stunning character and I was fascinated with her from her beginnings as a female photographer in the world of men through her progression to staying on in the dangerous last days of the war. Beautifully tod, I was able to see every last picture in my mind. I highly this novel.
Claire M. (Hilton Head, SC)
The Lotus Eaters
I’m fairly well informed on Vietnam and our war there and it has been of abiding interest given the loss of friends and relatives who died for it or of it as well as my own activism during the time. I looked forward to reading this novel and I have had the damnedest time trying to get through it. While Soli has evocative passages of narrative, often bringing the country to life, that cannot be said of her characters. Characterization is weak - and some of the images are hard to swallow. Did she really go to find Vietnam armed only with the knowledge of how to use an Instamatic and that her brother died there? How do we go from a woman-child worried about how to deal with her period to a woman ready to exchange sex for selfish and juvenile emotions while becoming jaded by a war she presumes to understand? I read an advance reader’s copy and I’m not a stranger to those so the extraordinary number of syntactical errors, dependent clauses with no antecedent and unchecked assertions of truth that have made me stumble and go back a sentence or more to decipher are uncommon and have interfered with my reading. There are elements here of a story to be told but the lack of character and plot development as well as serious editing are a hindrance to making it take off.
Peg M. (Durham, NC)
The Lotus Defeaters
After more than a month struggling through this novel, I surrender. One hundred pages from the end of the book, I am no longer willing to give any more of my time or effort to this novel, The Lotus Eaters. While some of the descriptions are rich and evocative, they cannot counteract the flatness of the characters. I don’t care what happens to any of them. This reads like a screenplay, headed for the stage – and it may make a fabulous movie, full of intrigue and lust, cityscape and jungle – but the book itself is just is tedious.
Barbara J. (West Valley City, Utah)
A must read
This book is well written. It is set in Vietnam during the Vietnam War about a woman photographer and the experiences she had covering the War. I was quite impressed with the description of the land where it be the jungle or Saigon. I was transported there, while reading.
Kathy G. (Alamo, CA)
The Lotus Eaters
I have hesitated for over a week to start my review. The reading experience has been so thought provoking I have been a little overwhelmed.
Judith G. (Ewa Beach, HI)
Deja vu and VietNam
From a personal experience, my husband and I lived in Panama during the middle of the war. (The U.S. Canal Zone in Panama was one of the strategic training areas for the Army Special Forces. ) Most of our friends were deployed while we were living there. I was in my early twenties and had no realistic idea what our young men really faced until I read the book.
Tatjana Soli's depiction of war time Vietnam - the beauty of its people as well as the horrors of war is masterful. The character development is both complex and compelling. Her descriptions are beautiful. One feels as though one is walking beside Helen Adams whether she is traveling along the crowded streets of Saigon or through the smoldering heat of the war zone.
I highly recommend The Lotus Eaters. Soli's balance of violence, beauty and love yields a riveting novel that is hard to put down from the very beginning to the very end.
I read this hoping I would recognize places and buildings in VietNam that I have seen and I did. Tatjana Soli captured the cloying heat as well as the green countryside and villages. With three (for me) competing protagonists the story flowed easily between and among their lives. This is a rich description of a country torn by war while citizens remained stoic and willing to bear what was brought to them. I've been to VietNam 5 times and think this novel could be an opening for others who think they should go but haven't...to do just that. It offers the opportunity to learn of the customs and culture of the Vietnamese. The Author's notes and the General Bibliography should be invaluable to those wanting to read more about the area and the war written by various authors.
Barbara B. (Alta Loma, CA)
The Lotus Eaters
Reading The Lotus Eaters made me think about the Vietnam War and, as a teenager & young adult during some of that time, how little I had been interested in it, which makes me ashamed today.
Sharon W. (Columbia, SC)
The Lotus Eaters Does Not Mesmerize
I loved the realistic descriptions of the War & how it impacted all who were involved, especially the young girl, Lan. I had a hard time really liking Helen or Darrow, but loved Linh.
Tatjana Soli's descriptions of the land,villages and Saigon put me right there. I could feel the heat and humidity and could smell the different odors, even the fish paste!
I would definitely recommend this book to my book club & others. Discussions could be numerous. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
A book with as much promise as The Lotus Eaters should be able to earn the highest reviewers' marks. Instead, I expect other readers will experience the same level of disappointment that I did.
I approached my reading of this novel with excitement. The Viet Nam conflict was the war of my generation, and the women's movement came into mainstream America during my twenties. What could be better than a novel set in the Viet Nam of the 60s with a female combat photographer as the main character?
As I turned the last page, I realized I was deeply disappointed. Although Tatjana Soli excels at narrative description, her plot structure and development are mediocre and juvenile. I tripped over too many syntax problems, anachronisms, and unexplained non-sensical acronyms. I realize this was a pre-publication draft, but no good writer should let such sentences loose in the world.
I would like to have been able to give a better review, especially to a writer who seems gifted at evoking a vast sense of time and place. Soli, however, needs to do some serious work on character and plot development.