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The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Literary fiction

The Sympathizer

by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Quick take

A clever account of a Viet Cong spy, who escapes Saigon for a complicated double life in the United States.

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    Critically acclaimed

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It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong. The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America, but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause. A gripping spy novel, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.

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Member ratings (435)

  • Maureen M.

    Milwaukee, WI

    A really nuanced book about the struggle of identity of many forms. The writing was elegant and clever. The story raw and real. Would recommend to anyone who struggles understanding the Vietnam War.

  • Taylor W.

    Madison, WI

    Challenging to read, not for the prose but for the subject matter (cw: rape, torture). However, still an important novel to sit with as an American, for whom Vietnam and the war can seem so distant.

  • angelica M.

    Lincolnville, SC

    A modern classic; although it covers the Vietnam War, the issues here can relate to many kids who are third-culture, first generation Americans or biracial. Everyone should read this.

  • Rosemary V.

    Long Beach, CA

    One of the best books I’ve ever read because the ending was so powerful. It’s a bit slow and dense in the beginning but by the end of it you will be blown away.

  • Christina M.

    Miami, FL

    I’ll admit, for 3/4ths of the book, it was just good. But that last 1/4th blew me away. Was not expecting that at all. Highly recommend.