The Sympathizer

Reviewed by Melanie on June 21, 2017


I picked up this book to listen to with my husband when Audible had a two for one sale. Taking a break from Charley Davidson, we began The Sympathizer. The book is a unique view on Vietnam during a war that was chaotic, not just in Vietnam, but also in America.

The Captain who is telling the story is parts of memories that he is writing as his confession. During the beginning of the story, when he is being ready to be evacuated to America. He then goes through his life, in America, and back in South Vietnam. Honestly, while I understood that The Captain was a communist, I guess I didn’t understand who he was spying for or why he was considered a sympathizer.

The story overall is well written, and the characters are well developed. While I could have lived without listening about a boy masturbating with a squid, it helped to put just how poor his family was into perspective because the squid was such a special treat. Throughout this part of the story, my husband and I were both gagging imagining the young boy eating what had been described in incredible detail as a sex toy.

Overall, the story was interesting and provided a different view than what is generally offered with stories about Vietnam. While it’s not my favorite book of the year, it was a nice read, with heavy subject matter.

The Sympathizer Book Cover The Sympathizer
Viet Thanh Nguyen
Fiction, Historical, War, Cultural, Asia
Audible Audio
April 14, 2015

A profound, startling, and beautifully crafted debut novel, The Sympathizer is the story of a man of two minds, someone whose political beliefs clash with his individual loyalties.

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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