Title: The Lotus Eaters
Author: Tatjana Soli
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: December 21, 2010
Hardcover: 416 pages
In the final days of a falling Saigon,The Lotus Eaters unfolds the story of three remarkable photographers brought together under the impossible umbrella of war: Helen Adams, a once-naïve ingénue whose ambition conflicts with her desire over the course of the fighting; Linh, the mysterious Vietnamese man who loves her, but is torn between conflicting loyalties to his homeland and his heart; and Sam Darrow, a man addicted to the narcotic of violence, to his intoxicating affair with Helen and to the ever-increasing danger of his job. All three become transformed by the conflict they have risked everything to record.
In this much-heralded debut, Tatjana Soli creates a searing portrait of three souls trapped by their impossible passions, contrasting the wrenching horror of combat and the treachery of obsession with the redemptive power of love.
Imagine the horrors of war told through the eyes of a photojournalist who has come to love the very country hers is currently fighting. Now take it a step further and imagine a love story interwoven with the chaos of war and you will have the foundation of The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli. In The Lotus Eaters, the reader views the Vietnam War through the eyes of Helen, an American photojournalist, who finds herself captivated by the beauty of the country amidst the chaos, destruction, and horrors, which surround her. Through Linh, the reader gets a more intimate look at the war from a Vietnamese perspective. Soli writes a beautiful and lyrical novel, one of longing, searching, love and addiction/obsession. The cast of characters are well drawn out and while I could understand Darrow and Linh, I was not truly able to understand Helen and I think I would have enjoyed the book even more had I been able to see things from her perspective. That being said, The Lotus Eaters takes the reader deep into Vietnam, the War, and the conflict between the North and the South. Vividly described, heart breaking at one moment, and beautifully tender the next, Soli keeps the readers on an emotional roller coaster ride. What makes this fictionalised account of the Vietnam War truly stand out for me is the beautiful prose and the focus on women photojournalists in a male dominated field, for the time. I would recommend The Lotus Eaters to those looking for a well researched, yet fictional account of the Vietnam War from both sides. I think this book would make for an interesting discussion group pick, especially if the group is multi-generational.
Tatjana Soli is a novelist and short story writer. Born in Salzburg, Austria, she attended Stanford University and the Warren Wilson MFA Program.
Her stories have appeared in StoryQuarterly, Confrontation, Gulf Coast, Other Voices, Nimrod, Third Coast, Carolina Quarterly, Sonora Review and North Dakota Quarterly among other publications.
Her work has been twice listed in the 100 Distinguished Stories in Best American Short Stories and nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She was awarded the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Prize, teh Dana Award, finalist for the Bellwether Prize, and received scholarships to the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.
She lives with her husband in Orange County, California, and teaches through the Gotham Writers’ Workshop.
To learn more about Tatjana Soli please visit her website.
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I received a complimentary copy of The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli from TLC Book Tours to be a part of this tour and offer my honest review of the book. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned book.