This is my first novel for the War Through the Generations Challenge - Vietnam. I am interested Vietnam War literature. I know almost nothing about this era; I was a kid when the war ended, and there weren't really a lot of movies made of this era, like WWII.
Huong's work is about Loung, a North Vietnamese soldier who serves about 15 years. Most of the novel deals with events that happened during the 10th year of service. Quan finds out that a childhood friend, Bien, had a meltdown. Another friend, Luong, enlists Quan to get Bien to another unit, so he can have a chance to recover. However, the novel doesn't stay in that year; Quan thinks of events from his childhood and early days of his army stint.
He recalls: "This war was not simply another war against foreign aggressions; it was also our chance for a resurrection. Vietnam had been chosen by History: After the war, our country would be humanity's paradise..
Houng, the author was jailed for a time in Vietnam. Her views of the "paradise" didn't follow the company line. In the same section, she writes about Quan's views after 10 years of fighting, "..The deeper we plunged into the war, the more the memory of that first day (when the soldiers first went off to war) haunted us. The more we were tortured by the consciousness of our appalling indifference, the more searing the memory of our mother's tears."
Another snippy comment is made by two high officials, who opine that Marxism was the opiate of the people.
I enjoyed reading the metaphors, which are so different from my world. Two pale men, were not pale as ghosts, but "as pale as two crickets left too long in a match box." Quan's realization that he and his father would never understand each other led to the description of the relationship, "like two ponds in the same field with no canal to link them."
Even though Huong has a lot of descriptive and thoughtful passages, she always gets the reader back to the reality of the war. The earlies scene was of Quan and Luy burying decaying women's bodies, who had also been raped and beaten before their deaths. Dao Tien gives Quan a package to take to Tien's family: "a comb made of aircraft metal for his daughter, a scarf made of parachute netting for his wife, and an American ballpoint pen with three different colors for his son."
This novel opened my eyes to a closed society. It's not an easy read, but you will benefit from it.