The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

On a stifling day in 1975, the North Vietnamese army is poised to roll into Saigon. As the fall of the city begins, two lovers make their way through the streets to escape to a new life. Helen Adams, an American photojournalist, must take leave of a war she is addicted to and a devastated country she has come to love. Linh, the Vietnamese man who loves her, must grapple with his own conflicted loyalties of heart and homeland. As they race to leave, they play out a drama of devotion and betrayal that spins them back through twelve war-torn years, beginning in the splendor of Angkor Wat, with their mentor, larger-than-life war correspondent Sam Darrow, once Helen’s infuriating love and fiercest competitor, and Linh’s secret keeper, boss and truest friend.

•      •       •    

War. A book on war.  This is not exactly a topic I leap for when I see books like this hit the shelf.  But saying a book like this, isn’t a fair synopsis – because this book is a different book on war… and the draw for me to this book, like a month to a flame – was her.  Was Helen and her story.

Helen Adams is an American War Photographer and she finds herself in Vietnam, going to where her brother had died and getting a feel of what the soldiers like him experience on a day-to-day basis.

Helen steps into her role willingly and naively and as the book takes us through the eyes of a photographer.  I as a reader, and Helen as a person – grew…  Opening up this book I learn that we are beginning with the end in mind …. we know the outcome and then we are taken back into the war to see how we got there. And The Lotus Eaters brings you to the front line. I found the book to be engaging and I wanted to know how Helen and the man she comes to love, Linh, get to where the book begins.

The characters are well brought out and I quickly found myself becoming attached to several of them.  I wanted to know where they were going, and if they would survive.  Truly an author for detail, Tatjana Soli left nothing to the imagination as I experienced Viet Nam through her words.  At times my breath caught in my throat as the details unfolded.

The vivid images that author Tatjana Soli paints of a war will remain in my mind for a long time to come.  I will be holding on to this story that was heartwarming and heart-wrenching all rolled into the combined pages of The Lotus Eaters.


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 The Sun, 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, the 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.

I received my review copy from TLC Book Tours

34 thoughts on “The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli

  1. Sounds impressive, but rather heavy, thematically speaking. I am not a great reader of war stories, but this one sounds more personal and intriguing.

    1. Nikola – it really does have a heavy theme but it did not feel like a heavy read to me. More personal is a great way to put it. I wanted to feel what Helen was feeling.

  2. Heartwarming and heart-wrenching.. what a combo! Thanks so much for the review. We really appreciate the time and effort that went into reading and reviewing The Lotus Eaters! Thanks for being on the tour!

  3. kadybug

    I’m not one that’s normally attracted to books about war either but I find I’ve been reading a lot of them lately. Mostly WWII books so maybe one on the Vietnam War would put a different spin on things for me.

  4. I just bought this and received it in the mail yesterday-I cannot read your review-for fear of ruining the book. My husband has started borrowing my books on tapes and then tells me about the book. I have to tell him -do not tell me.

    1. LOL Esme – but I get that! I dot hat too if I am reading and reviewing a book and I see reviews on it. I will skim to the bottom maybe to see if they liked it.

      LOL about your husband! Mine would do the same thing! 😀

  5. librarypat

    It would be interesting to revisit this terrible time from this different perspective. It sounds like the type of book that is more than worth reading, especially for those of us who were around during that time period and whose lives were effected by the war.

    1. Pat, I bet that would give a different spin on the book. My dad was in Vietnam…. I was born after this war so do not have any memories of this time but have a couple pictures of dad and he is so thin while he was serving.

  6. I’ve seen this title pop up everywhere–and not just recently. I’m sure it’s a good book, but the war thing really throws me off. Your review makes it sound a bit more character-led, like The Good Earth, though. So maybe it is worth the read???

  7. Oooh.. another book set during the NAM war! I have to add this one. I actually enjoy reading books of that genre. This one sounds strong, and you review tells me I have to get hold of this book too!

  8. Pingback: It’s Monday! What Are You Reading! « One Persons Journey through a world of Books

  9. I have this one on tap for May. If you liked this one, you might also want to try The Man From Saigon, by Marti Leimbach, which also features a woman reporting the war in Vietnam.

    Thanks for the review!

  10. Pingback: Tatjana Soli, author of The Lotus Eaters, on tour March/April 2010 | TLC Book Tours

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