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The Vietnam war captured in fiction

Perfume River, Hue

The most famous (English language) book about Vietnam is probably Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. It’s the story about the idealist American Pyle and his involvement in the country’s politics watched on by Fowler, a jaded foreign correspondent. As with Graham Greene’s other books, it’s a story about intrigue, hidden agendas, loss of faith and, of course, love. And it’s captured beautifully in the film version too.

Highways to a War by Christopher Koch is another excellent book about the war in Vietnam, the life of foreign correspondents and photographers and the hidden agendas at play in Indochina in the 60s and 70s. It follows the story of Australian photographer Mike Langford who captured the war but was then captured by it and disappeared in Cambodia. I love this book as it’s so well written with a intriguing plot about what really happen to Mike with excellent characters.

If you’re interested in the Vietnamese perspective on the war, then The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh has been translated into English is a story told via flashbacks about a former soldier who has a job recovering bodies in the area he fought in during the conflict.

Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes is another book about Vietnam war written by an former Marine who served in the war. I haven’t read this book, but the reviews have got me intrigued. It’s a substantial read at 598 pages (yikes!), but I’m very keen to get stuck into it.

I’ve travelled all through Indochina — Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam — over several trips and I’m interested in the history of the area, the war and its aftermath. One of the my reading themes over the last 10 years has been books on Indochina, so I hope to get to Matterhorn soon.



One thought on “The Vietnam war captured in fiction

  1. Great couple of books. I’d recommend The Year of Living Dangerously by Koch and also the wonderful film adaption of the same name by Peter Weir made in 1982. Graham Greene is the quintessential character writer. Other great reads from Greene include, The End of the Affair, (also a good film made in 1955 and remade in 1999), The Honorary Consul and The Power and The Glory. All fallen Catholics with the terrible habit of falling in love with the wrong women. Must have been a phase he was going through! Looking forward to reading more of your recommendations.

    Posted by Brad | 30 January 2011, 4:31 pm

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