The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen; 2015; $26.00; 371 pages; Grove Press, New York, NY; 978-0-8021-rec2345-9; checked out from Multnomah County Library, Gregory Heights; 6/8/16-6/17/16
Why did I read this? I am trying to read all of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize winners and this is the winner for fiction.
The main character is a communist spy who works on the staff of a South Vietnamese General. The story begins at the fall of Saigon in April 1975 and continues as the General, his family, staff and some friends are relocated to Southern California. There the General opens a liquor store, his wife a Pho restaurant and begins to plan for an army to return to Vietnam and overthrow the regime. The main character is half French and half Vietnamese and attended college in Southern California, and tends to see both sides of many things. He continues to report on the General’s activities to his communist handler, he also gets recruited to act as an adviser for a movie about the war, it bears an amazing resemblance to a movie starring Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen and Marlon Brando. He returns to Vietnam to overthrow the regime (wink, wink) and to protect a friend. He is captured and put in a reeducation camp and forced to write a confession, which it turns out is what we have been reading.
Grade-A Nguyen’s writing style reminds me of Pat Conroy. This is a story filled with drama, pathos and friendship. Be warned there a couple of very graphic scenes, not just of battles but of interrogations.