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The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli; Review

March 27, 2010

Title: The Lotus Eaters

Author: Tatjana Soli

Published: March 30, 2010 by St. Martin’s Press

Number of Pages: 400

Rating: 3/5

Review Sent to St. Martin’s Press*:

The Lotus Eaters is an astounding accomplishment. In her bare, unmerciful prose, Tatjana Soli reincarnates the Vietnam War before us, warm, sticky, and smelling of both the stench of dead soldiers and the street vendors’ soup. Readers will find themselves equally enthralled in wartime as the characters, obsessed with it, unable to wrench themselves from the pages, no matter how gruesome the truth of the words is. The Lotus Eaters is a novel that candidly tells us that it must be read. It will not be set down. Within it is a story that must be told.

Review:

My feelings for this book shall forever remain hazy, I’m afraid. I have relatively no idea where this book stands in my mind. I wavered between a 3/5 and a 4/5 rating for a long time, and even once considered 2/5, I think. It was all so very contradictory and altogether confusing.

In the long run, however, I think 3/5 was an accurate rating. I’m sure many would rate it higher simply because my main reason for knocking the rating down one was that the book was more sexually and verbally immoral than I prefer. It made me feel uncomfortable at times, which automatically lowered my esteem for it and my regard. I want to feel cozy with a book and snuggle up close to it. I want it to make me feel warm. At times, this book made me shiver with apprehension and, occasionally, disgust.

On a happier note: the book was pretty dang brilliant. Tatjana Soli’s style was a bit shaky and confusing at first, but it began to feel so natural. This was one of the most sensational books I have read: literally. I could see and smell and feel everything. This book is top notch at making the words and page disappear and leaving you alone with the story. I absolutely loved the blunt descriptions of both the beautiful and the totally revolting. This book’s descriptions are delicious.

The story itself was fascinating. The way the war affects the main characters is something I won’t even attempt to describe. I can’t fathom how Soli did it so well. Needless to say, my synopsis of this book will have to be brief.

Helen goes to Vietnam, nearly on a whim, and becomes one of the first woman photojournalists of the war. There she meets various people, falls in love with various men, and witnesses various atrocities. It’s all quite fascinating and intriguing. You’ll be caught up in it from the get-go…

And yet I stopped reading halfway through and took a 20+ day break. I have a reason for this: I couldn’t focus on the book. I’ve been going on and on about how riveting it all was, yet there were fifty-some pages in the middle that ensnared me. In the end, I do believe that the second half was more tantalizing than the first. The break did me good, though, and I couldn’t put the book down once I’d picked it back up.

I had never known much about the Vietnam War. My mom wasn’t even born when it began. It’s not as infamous as the World Wars, and consequently, not as often spoken of. However, as usually is the case with me, I find that I am now far more interested in it, having lived bits of it through a character. Tatjana Soli does a magnificent job of showing us the war as it was, not romanticizing it or fluffing facts.

Unarguably, the strong points are the descriptions of the obsession in regard to the picture-taking. The entire mind-set of the photojournalists was alien to me and mighty interesting. Many things were stated that I had never even considered. Thoughts that had never entered my head now wriggled their way into it. This book gives you a mound of things to think about, some minor and some deep.

Overall, I did not enjoy the vulgarities of certain parts and those fogged up my view. Others might be able to see right past them, but I am not one of those people. On the other hand, I loved the descriptions. In this area, I believe Tatjana Soli has a fabulous and evident gift. It’s undeniable that she is a master of words. She twists them and creates art.

Just imagine.

Or don’t, and simply read the book.

I will warn all those that are “clean-freaks” like me: You’ll be disturbed by parts. Skip ’em. That’s what I do, and I survive. However, this book was on the verge of being set down and left for, say, ten years.

All the same, I can honestly say that many, many people will find this book to be phenomenal.

*Thanks for the ARC!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 9, 2010 12:30 PM

    I can’t wait to read this book, it looks amazing.
    Kelly
    http://bookenddiaries.blogspot.com

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