The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as five other awards, The Sympathizer is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam. The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship.
Where to buy it: QBD the Bookshop, paperback $22.99
When can I get my hands on it: Now!
What can I expect: love, war, friendship, refugees, politics, espionage
The Sympathizer follows a nameless narrator and the events that transpire in his life following the fall of Saigon. What surprised me the most about this book was how much I laughed. This book is incredibly funny and intuitive. I was not expecting to laugh so much whilst reading a book about a communist sympathizer and the Vietnam war. We follow the nameless protagonist as he recalls his childhood, growing up as a bastard in a conservative Christian village. We then get a glimpse into the friendship formed between Man, Bon and the narrator. We get a glimpse of his first experience of America during his college years and his return to Vietnam in pursuit of his political ideologies.
It’s rare to read a book centered around a war that actually doesn’t cover the events of the war very much. Instead we get the repercussions of the events of the war. The effects of thousands of displaced refugees, the emotional effects of high ranking soldiers working as waiters or cleaners in another country just to get by and the longing for returning to a home that no longer exists.
Despite being 500 pages long this book was not dense nor overwhelming. It was written so fluently and the story was so captivating that I was sad it ended. The nameless protagonist is a very engaging narrator and the story flowed seamlessly. There are a lot of negative implications towards the involvement of America in the war and the reception of Vietnamese refugees. We’re given a glimpse into the prejudice and stereotypes inflicted on Asian migrants and the view of Asian migrants on American life.
This book is witty, intelligent and sarcastic and I honestly cannot fault it.
Final Rating: 5/5