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The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Literary fiction

The Sympathizer

by Viet Thanh Nguyen

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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 (485)

  • Katherine K.

    Boise, ID

    I didn’t like the book, the author was so good in making me uncomfortable and I wish I read his Q&A before I began. I never thought of writers needing to structure their books towards dominant culture

  • 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.

  • Mary H.

    Oakland, CA

    One of the most moving books I’ve ever read. Grapples with how identity shapes us and answering the question, “Am I, or would I be, on the right side of history”? Beautifully written.

  • Sara M.

    Saint Louis, MO

    Amazing writing. I found the story to be compelling, yet challenging. It's an angry book, full of confrontation. As an American, it grabs you and won't let you look away from the horror.

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