How Can Fictional Stories Help People Deal With Real-Life Struggles Books Set in Vietnam – Five Novels to Read Before You Travel

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Books Set in Vietnam – Five Novels to Read Before You Travel

If you travel to Vietnam, it’s almost impossible to ignore that the country has been at war for over 20 years, and looking at books set in Vietnam, it’s just as hard to escape the effects of the war. In most literary endeavors. There are many fine novels written about Vietnam, but this selection tries to present different perspectives, giving you a broader view of the country and its history before your trip.

‘Matterhorn’ by Carl Marlantes

Written in 1977, but only published in 2010 after more than 30 years of rejection, the novel is being described as an ‘epic’ and the first ‘great’ novel on the Vietnam War. The reality of war cannot be shied away from in this book as Second Lieutenant Vaino Mellas and his Bravo Company confront their fear of war and the harshness of the jungle highlands of Southeast Vietnam.

Marty Leimbach’s ‘The Man from Saigon’

Books about the Vietnam War are often written from a male perspective, but with this one we meet Susan Gifford who is sent to Vietnam to write a human interest story about the war for a women’s magazine. Although she may be quite naïve to begin with, Gifford is soon covering the real conflict, and finds herself falling in love with Mark, a fellow journalist. But if you thought these books were going to be some kind of thriller, you’d be wrong – I’ve read very few books that make you feel as horrified and wary as this one. And while there is romance – the complexities of Gifford’s relationship with Mark and his Vietnamese photographer son give this novel real emotional depth.

‘Novel Without Name’ by Dung Thu Huong.

And what about the North Vietnamese soldiers? In this novel we share the story of Kwan, a soldier who has been at war for ten years, only to return to a village that has changed much in his absence. Written by a woman imprisoned for her political beliefs, the novel captures Quan’s disillusionment and loss of innocence, giving us a side of the war that is rarely revealed. Here we see the ‘glory’ of the cause giving way to the displacement of civilians, the starvation of villagers and the inevitable breakdown of families and relationships as a result of prolonged conflict.

‘Dragon House’ by John Shores

And now in modern Vietnam, where two Americans try to deal with their own pasts by setting up a center to care for Vietnamese street children. Upon arrival the pair encounter the corruption and chaos of Ho Chi Minh City, and as readers we are treated to all the sounds and smells that bring the streets to life. But it’s the children who steal your heart in this novel, taking you with them as they struggle with the world they live in. This book is a story of love, hope and redemption that is a poignant reminder of the legacy of past conflicts.

‘Daughters of the River Huong’ by Uen Nicole Duong

Spanning four generations, this is a book that takes us far back in the richness of Vietnam’s history, before taking us through colonialism and war to the country we know today. Written by a political refugee who arrived in the United States at the age of sixteen, the novel tells the story of a family of Vietnamese women, and reflects the struggle of a nation.

If you’re going to travel to Vietnam, you’re visiting a country that has a special attraction among us from the West – it’s impossible to travel through Vietnam without encountering the role of colonization and war in its history. Arm yourself with these novels and you’ll be able to understand a little more about the people who walk the streets of Vietnam today.

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