Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and several other awards. In 2025, when literary magazines begin making lists of the best 25 books of the first quarter of the century, this novel will be on every list. It is a novel about the Vietnam War and the Vietnamese and the Americans; but it is also a novel about all wars, and all Vietnams, and all Americas. If one of the main benefits of reading is to see the world through new eyes and to think the thoughts of someone very different from yourself, then this is a book you *must* read. It is brilliant and will alter your worldview.
The nameless narrator, simply called “The Captain” by some other characters, is a young Vietnamese man, born in Vietnam, college-educated in California, and then returned to South Vietnam. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, he returns to California. He worked with the South Vietnamese government, but he is also a Communist spy. His confused depths go much farther, though. He is a “half-breed”: -- the bastard son of a teenage girl and a French Catholic priest. And he is a “sympathizer” in the broadest meaning of that term. He is a communist sympathizer, but also an anti-Communist sympathizer, and an American sympathizer. He is forced to take sides in a world where no one knows why they are on a particular side. Back in America, his hidden and conflicted loyalties force him into impossible choices, including one which may send him back to Vietnam where no one will know which side he is really on, including himself.
This is a character you haven’t read about before. This is a cultural viewpoint you are unlikely to have encountered. Practically every sentence is one that you cannot imagine ever having been written before.