Set in Vietnam during the 1950's where the author mixes a murder mystery with a cautionary tale of involvement in Vietnam and peppers it with precise and discrete character observations. Fowler, a seasoned and cynical British reporter with a beautiful Vietnamese mistress. Fowler hits opium four times each night in order to face the future. He knows himself and the depth of his own selfishness. “I don’t take sides. I’m not engaged”.
Pyle is the brash young idealist sent out by Washington on a mysterious aids mission to Saigon, where the French Army struggles against the Vietminh guerrillas. Pyle wants so desperately to be liked, so “he was very meticulous about small courtesies.” Phuong, the “love-interest” over whom Pyle and Fowler contend, her name means “Phoenix,” but her delicate body is framed as fragile as a birds.
I have travel Saigon’s sun-splintered streets in a trishaw and in the country, I squint at golden rice fields set against a lush riot of green. I have had drinks at the bar of the Hotel Continental and Nursed those who came back from the horror of war there. Nowhere is one safe. One minute, they ate ice cream in a parlour; the next, they scrape brain matter from there shoes. The phrase "Do you think the peasant sits and thinks of God and Democracy when he gets inside his mud hut at night?” sums it up for me. This is a fiercely politically engaging work.
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