Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Lotus Eaters: Review and Giveaway

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear."
~Ambrose Redmoon

The Lotus Eaters
by Tatjana Soli is the story of a brave, young woman, Helen Adams, an untrained but talented photojournalist who travels to Vietnam during the war years, determined to somehow understand more about the death of her brother, who died as a soldier there. As the first woman combat photographer, Helen is teased and not taken seriously by some of the men in the profession, but she manages to persevere.

Published in 2010, Tatjana Soli's debut novel starts with the fall of Saigon in 1975, and goes back in time to Helen's arrival in Vietnam 12 years earlier. Helen is seduced by the beauty of this country in Southeast Asia, with its azure skies and white sand beaches, and also by the Vietnam War (1959 - 1975) itself. For many combat photographers, including Helen, the war is like a drug, a source of adrenaline, fueled by risk and the closeness and presence of death, which give a new, heightened urgency to life. Like the lotus-eaters in Homer's Odyssey, who become addicted to the narcotic fruit and forget about returning home, Helen and other combat photographers become intoxicated by the war in Vietnam and find it hard to leave, even though they risk their lives by staying. In fact, they become adrenaline junkies, who thrive on the excitement, which is followed by brief moments of relief at their survival. In this state, Helen begins a love affair with a seasoned photojournalist, Sam Darrow, and a friendship with his assistant, an enigmatic Vietnamese man, Linh, and the story unfolds.

While I have read literature about World War II, this was my first novel about the Vietnam War, in which 3 to 4 million Vietnamese, 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians, and about 60,000 American soldiers lost their lives. For me, it's always difficult to read about the devastation of war, although the writing in The Lotus Eaters is beautiful, and the story kept me up reading late at night (so much so that I became temporarily nocturnal). The author uses descriptive language, but she doesn't overdo it, so my imagination was ignited. Although I struggled to get through some of the violent parts--injury and death are omnipresent--I was rewarded by a rich and layered reading experience, by images as uncompromising and haunting as war photographs in Life magazine. Like the characters in the novel--Helen, Darrow, Linh, Robert, Matt, and others--I was fascinated and repulsed simultaneously by the events in this affecting book. (After reading The Lotus Eaters, I may need to read a sweet romance, or an English novel about manners, to recuperate from my Vietnam adventure.) Along with the violence, destruction, and death, Helen finds love, and a real sense of purpose in life.

Above all else, The Lotus Eaters is a story about courage. A story about a young woman who breaks into a field previously off-limits for women. A story about a woman who risks her life to give the world an honest look at the atrocities of war, and a few glimpses of humanity. A story about a woman who chooses to love, even though she is not sure that she will live to see another day. The Lotus Eaters is a riveting novel about having courage and hope even in the worst circumstances.

The author is generously offering a copy of The Lotus Eaters as a giveaway (U.S./Canada only).
  • To enter this giveaway, simply leave a comment.
  • For an extra chance at winning, become a follower of this blog, or let me know that you're already a follower.
  • For an additional chance, post about this contest on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter.
Enter by 5 PM PDT on Monday, April 26. The winner will be chosen randomly and announced on Tuesday, April 27. Good luck!


Special thanks to Lisa from TLC for the opportunity to review an advance readers' edition of this novel (which is why I didn't choose a quote from the book; it's not the final version). For more reviews of this book, visit the other stops on TLC's The Lotus Eaters book tour. Please stay tuned for an upcoming exclusive interview with Tatjana Soli.




The Lotus Eaters
counts toward the Women Unbound Reading Challenge hosted by Aarti, Care, and Eva.

61 comments:

  1. This review somehow reminded me of the movie 'Apocalypse Now' which also painted a haunting and violent picture of the Vietnam war. War is probably so irrational and deeply disturbing that many artistic portrayals lead us to the seemingly surreal. Thank you for your review of a devastating war experience which still reverberates deeply in our culture.

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  2. I don't think there is any good way of portraying war and its aftereffects! That being said, I really like what you say about the book. This makes me want to read it even if it is heavy - because like you I have not read anything on the Vietnam war.

    But well don't enter me for the giveaway **sigh** :)

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  3. Susan, thanks for the thoughtful review. I do hope to read this book as well.

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  4. I haven't read much about the Vietnam War either, and I'm not quite old enough to remember too much about it, so I'm really looking forward to this one. No need to enter me.

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  5. I have had my eye on this book for a little while now. It looks like a fantastic story!

    freda.mans[at]sympatico.ca

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  6. Already a public follower.

    freda.mans[at]sympatico.ca

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  7. tweet; http://twitter.com/fredalicious/status/11645431899

    freda.mans[at]sympatico.ca

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  8. Sounds like a great story!

    reading_frenzy at yahoo dot com

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  9. Already a follower!

    reading_frenzy at yahoo dot com

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  10. No need to enter me, as I'm reading this book (and loving it) right now. You've beautifully described this book. I'll link to your review on War Through the Generations.

    --Anna
    Diary of an Eccentric

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  11. Hi Susan, all posted at Win a Book for you!

    This one I'd love to enter for please! I'm already a follower as you know. Thanks a bunch!

    bj19662001 (at) yahoo (dot) ca

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  12. This book sounds great. I have left this comment, am a follower, and have posted this info at my website (which is a blog) http://www.mkimsmith.com

    Thanks Suko!

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  13. I would love to win this book. I am a follower.
    amandarwest at gmaildotcom

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  14. What a wonderful review, Suko! The Vietnam war is actually the war that I am most curious about, and I have read a lot of books on the subject. This sounds like it is a must read for me, being that it's my subject of choice and that it is so well written. I would love the chance to win a copy, so please do enter me in your giveaway!!

    zibilee(at)figearo(dot)net

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  15. I'd SO love this! Thanks for the giveaway.

    s.mickelson at gmail dot com

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  16. I'd love to read this!

    I follow you w/ Google Reader.

    j.t.oldfield[at]gmail.com

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  17. This is the second positive review I have read for this book. I would love to read this. Thanks for the great review and for the giveaway.

    bthgordon at yahoo dot com

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  18. I am also a follower!

    bthgordon at yahoo dot com

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  19. I'd love to be entered for this. Thank you for hosting this giveaway.

    mystica123athotmaildotcom

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  20. Susan, what an excellent review. I love it when a book has me so engrossed that I become temporarily nocturnal :-) But reading about war is tough and I understand how you would feel fascinated and repulsed at the same time.

    Thank you so much for being on this tour! We really appreciate all the time and effort you put into reading and reviewing The Lotus Eaters!

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  21. Thank you all for your terrific comments, posts, and tweets. Please return for an interview with the author, Tatjana Soli, which I will hopefully post soon.

    Additional comments welcomed.

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  22. I'll put a link on my site about your giveaway! Can't wait to read this one. Don't enter me, already have it!

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  23. This sounds fantastic! Count me in please!

    melacan at hotmail dot com

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  24. I'm a new follower

    melacan at hotmail dot com

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  25. Fantastic review, and I'm interested to see you have an author interview coming up, too.

    Please enter my name in the drawing - I've joined the War Through the Generations (Vietnam) Challenge, as well as Women Unbound. Sounds like a perfect fit for both.

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  26. p.s. I follow your blog in my Google Reader :)

    ReplyDelete
  27. I follow this blog on Google reader
    Love & Hugs,
    Pam
    pk4290(at)comcast(dot)net

    ReplyDelete
  28. This story sounds great.
    Love & Hugs,
    Pam
    pk4290(at)comcast(dot)net

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  29. Looks interesting!

    janemaritz at yahoo dot com

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  30. This sounds so neat!

    astripedarmchairATgmailDOTcom

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  31. Oh I'm envious that you got this from TLC! I saw it at the site before but sadly the publisher only sends within US and Canada. The book really caught my interest when I saw that it was praised by Tim O'Brien, a Vietnam veteran whose writing I greatly loved.

    Beautiful review Suko! I hope this book shows up in our bookstores here :)

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  32. Great review-I have yet to read a book by a Vietnamese-this sounds like a very good book-thanks for sharing your thoughts on it

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  33. This is the second day in a row I've read praise for this book. I've read a few novels that have the Vietnam war at their core but none recently. I'd love a chance to win a copy of this one, thanks!

    Posted!

    wanda_waiting[@]hotmail[.]com

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  34. I would love to enter for a chance to win the book. The Lotus Eaters. I am a follower and I have posted your contest on my website!

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  35. I would love an oppertunity to win a free copy of the book.

    You contest is posted on my website and im a follower of you blog through google.

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  36. This sounds very good Suko, wonderful review. I like how you compare Helens obsession with the war to the lotus-eaters in the Odyssey.
    http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

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  37. Great review! I heard the author talk about this book on NYT book review podcast and thought it sounded really interesting! I haven't read much about the Vietnam War but I visited Vietnam a few years ago and was struck but how little the war was addressed in the sights or by tour guides.

    Thanks for the giveaway - leenbeen2001 (at) yahoo (dot) com. I am a follower!

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  38. This sounds like an excellent book. Please enter me into the giveaway.

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  39. oops - forgot to mention - I am an "old" follower!

    ReplyDelete
  40. This sounds like a great book! Please include me.

    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

    ReplyDelete
  41. Follower

    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

    ReplyDelete
  42. Tweet! Tweet!

    http://twitter.com/NancyeDavis/status/12129748594

    nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net

    ReplyDelete
  43. I would love to win this book. I am very interested in this subject area.

    CarolNWong@aol.com

    ReplyDelete
  44. This book sounds good! Please enter me! Thank you!
    I'm already a follower.
    mittens0831 at aol dot com

    ReplyDelete
  45. I would really like to read this book - thanks for hosting.

    I'm a follower.

    ravndahl (at) hotmail (dot) com

    ReplyDelete
  46. sounds like a thought provoking book
    9oofus(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  47. follow with GFC
    Suzquiz
    9oofus@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  48. tweeted
    http://twitter.com/suzquiz/status/12254823263
    9oofus@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  49. I would love to win a copy of this book for a friend of mine! It sounds so interesting I may end up reading it first heehee

    teagirl1 at telus dot net

    ReplyDelete
  50. Tweet!
    http://twitter.com/bcteagirl/status/12265073237

    ReplyDelete
  51. Your book sounds as interesting as "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan", both of which I loved and look forward to reading this one.

    ReplyDelete
  52. I'll be happy to post your blog address on my blog, which can be found at http://www.myspace.com/cherylmgower29

    ReplyDelete
  53. This sounds like a book that I'd like to read.

    wolfcarol451(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  54. I follow with Google Friend Connect.

    wolfcarol451(at)gmail(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  55. I've read some good reviews of this one. Thanks for the giveaway.
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  56. blog follower via GFC
    mtakala1 AT yahoo DOT com

    ReplyDelete
  57. Please enter me in this giveaway!

    familyhistree at yahoo dot com

    Sarah E

    ReplyDelete
  58. I follow.

    familyhistree at yahoo dot com

    Sarah E

    ReplyDelete
  59. I tweeted:

    http://twitter.com/saemmerson/status/12811314890

    familyhistree at yahoo dot com

    Sarah E

    ReplyDelete
  60. I would love to read this book—please enter me to win!

    skkorman AT bellsouth DOT net

    ReplyDelete

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