Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Review: Man from Saigon

Author: Marti Leimbach
Format: hard copy - 347 pages
Subject: female reporter in vietnam (non-fiction)
Setting: Vietnam late 1960's
Genre: fiction
Source: LibraryThing Early Reviewer program
Challenge: ARCs completed

I'm not really sure how to review this book.  It's a novel, purportedly a love story?  It's set in Vietnam at the height of the Vietnam war and is written by an author who has never been to Vietnam, even after the war. Never served in the military.   She indicates that her primary resources are others' writings about their experiences.    I guess for fiction it's ok, but I couldn't buy the premise, and I felt she took a story that could have been written in 150-200 pages, and stretched it to 300.  I found my eyes glazing over often. The physical descriptions of the jungle are well done; the rest  of the descriptions seem to me to be hackneyed re-runs of other's imagery and depictions.  The constant back and forth of settings and POV is really disconcerting.  I often found I had to stop and figure out where we were and who was talking.

Having read non-fiction stories  by several of the actual female reporters who did go to Vietnam, I had a hard time believing or relating to this one. The story is about the experiences of a female reporter who is sent to Vietnam to produce women's interest stories.  Susan, the reporter, has an affair with an American reporter, but also forms a working relationship with a young vietnamese photojournalist named Son who uses her hotel bathroom as his darkroom, and sleeps on a pallet in the corner of her hotel room.  Her American lover is convinced the Vietnamese is a spy.  Susan and Son are captured by Vietcong and held captive for a large portion of the book.  It is difficult to determine who Son is, what his actual role and allegiance are and what Susan's feelings are about him.  In the end, the reader is left for far too many questions about what the author was trying to say.  I was disappointed.

10 comments:

  1. I have seen a few things about this book, but your take on it has pretty much wiped out any lingering interest I might have had.

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  2. Thanks for the honest review. And I think you make a great point about the type of research needed to write non-fiction. Sounds like this one might have been better if it had been fiction (and had a better editor).

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  3. Just to clear up any misconceptions -- this book is Fiction, and it's definitely written in a fictional format. I think my comments about her research are still valid tho because she is trying very hard to make this HISTORICAL fiction. It may be my military background that keeps me from judging this objectively.

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  4. With your background, if you don't think it rings true, then it's not a book for me. Just from your review it sounds like too much of a stretch to believe in the story. Thanks.

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  5. This is something that I've found in Leimbach's other works: perfectly serviceable stories, but with some small thing missing. Great, thoughtful review! Thanks for posting it.

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  6. I guess I should count my blessings that I did not receive this book from LibraryThing like I had hoped. If you are looking for a fascinating novel about a female photojournalist, you should read The Lotus Eaters -- phenomenal book!

    Thanks for the honest review.

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  7. Thanks for your review - I think I'll skip this one.

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  8. I had high hopes for this one, but I think I'll pass. We get this up on War Through the Generations soon.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  9. I had high hopes for it as well. Cheers for the honest review!
    Shellie

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