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3.78 out of 53.78 out of 53.78 out of 53.78 out of 53.78 out of 5 3.78 (27 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Tatjana Soli Narrator: Kirsten Potter Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2010 ISBN: 9781455197491
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It’s 1975, and the North Vietnamese army is poised to roll into Saigon. As city begins to fall in earnest, two lovers make their way through the chaos to escape to a new life. Helen Adams, an American photojournalist, must take leave not only of a war she is addicted to, but of a devastated country she has come to love. Nguyen Pran Linh, the man who loves her, must deal with his own conflicted loyalties, both of heart and homeland. As they race through the streets, they play out a drama of love and betrayal that began twelve years before with their mentor, the larger-than-life war correspondent, Sam Darrow, who was once Helen’s infuriating love and fiercest competitor, as he was Linh’s secret protector and truest friend. As the sun sets on their life in Saigon, Helen and Linh struggle against both their inner demons and the ghosts of the past, in this sweeping epic that illuminates the wrenching horrors of war, the dangerous narcotic of obsession, and the redemptive power of love.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “If you have wondered what it’s like to be a combat photographer and what kind of toll such brutal work exacts on the soul, you must read The Lotus Eaters, Tatjana Soli’s beautiful and harrowing new novel. Its characters are unforgettable, as real as the historical events in which they’re enmeshed.” 

    Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Empire Falls, Bridge of Sighs, and That Old Cape Magic

  • “The very steam from Vietnam’s jungles seems to rise from the pages of Tatjana Soli’s tremendously evocative debut, a love story set in the hallucinatory atmosphere of war, described in translucent, fever-dream prose.”

    Janice Y. K. Lee, author of The Piano Teacher

  • “[A] splendid first novel…Helen’s restlessness and grappling, her realization that ‘a woman sees war differently,’ provide a new and fascinating perspective on Vietnam. Vivid battle scenes, sensual romantic entanglements and elegant writing add to the pleasures of The Lotus Eaters. Soli’s hallucinatory vision of wartime Vietnam seems at once familiar and new. The details…arise naturally, underpinning the novel’s sharp realism and characterization.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “[A] haunting debut novel…quietly mesmerizing…If it sounds as if a love story is the central element in The Lotus Eaters, Ms. Soli’s book is sturdier than that. Its object lessons in how Helen learns to refine her wartime photography are succinct and powerful. By exposing its readers to the violence of war only gradually and sparingly, the novel becomes all the more effective.”

    Janet Maslin, New York Times

  • “Anyone who has seen Kathryn’s Bigelow’s Oscar-winning film, The Hurt Locker, understands that the obsession with violence and risk, at least for a certain personality type, is hard to shake. That Soli’s story explores this mindset from a woman’s perspective (and a journalist, not a soldier) adds interesting and unexpected layers…The author explores Helen’s psyche with startling clarity, and portrays the chaotic war raging around her with great attention to seemingly minor details.”

    Boston Globe

  • “The novel is steeped in history, yet gorgeous sensory details enliven the prose…thirty-five years after the fall of Saigon, Soli’s entrancing debut brings you close enough to feel a part of it.”

    People

  • “This suspenseful, eloquent, sprawling novel illustrates the violence of the Vietnam War as witnessed by three interconnected photographers…Soli looks at the complex motivations and ambitions of the waves of American photographers who descended on Vietnam seeking glory and fame through their gut-wrenching photos of mass graves, crippled children, and dying soldiers, while also reveling in sex, drugs, and good times as the war raged around them. This harrowing depiction of life and death shows that even as the country burned, love and hope triumphed.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Evocative…Soli’s poignant work will grab the attention of most readers. A powerful new writer to watch.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “The strength here is in Soli’s vivid, beautiful depiction of war-torn Vietnam, from the dangers of the field, where death can be a single step away, to the emptiness of the Saigon streets in the final days of the American evacuation.”

    Booklist

  • “An impressive debut…A visceral story about the powerful and complex bonds that war creates. It raises profound questions about professional and personal lives that are based on, and often dependent on, a nation’s horrific strife. Graphic but never gratuitous, the gripping, haunting narrative explores the complexity of violence, foreignness, even betrayal. Moving and memorable.”

    Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

  • A New York Times Bestseller
  • A 2010 Kirkus Reviews Top 25 Book for Debut Fiction
  • A 2010 Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Prize for First Fiction Finalist
  • A Indie Next Notable Title, April 2010
  • A 2010 ALA Notable Book for Fiction
  • Winner of the 2010 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Fiction
  • One of the 2010 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kim | 2/13/2014

    " Extraodinary. One of the best, unexpected reads of the last five years. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Nikki | 2/12/2014

    " I loved this book. Having been to Vietnam, the author really captured the spirit of the people and the country as a whole - amazing. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Rachel Ballard | 2/11/2014

    " Definitely worth reading if you are interested in Vietnam. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susan Chapman | 2/8/2014

    " The war in Viet Nam from the perspective of the photojournalists who covered it. An interesting premise, but it missed the boat for me. Characters were self-absorbed and I didn't believe them. Better books about the VN war out there. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nancy | 2/6/2014

    " Great subject. But I found the book uneven. The war scenes and experiences with the Vietnamese kept me going, but honestly I skipped many of the love interest pages. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Halle Butvin | 2/1/2014

    " Brought up a lot of mixed emotions about being an expat in a conflict zone - happened to go to Newseum while finishing up this read and saw the Pulitzer exhibition there... gave it all a lot more emotion, especially about Vietnamese photographers. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sandra Shenk | 2/1/2014

    " The adrenaline-soaked life of a war photographer during the Vietnam War. Yes there are women war photographers. Through this one we get a review of the war again through her eyes. Just OK for me. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kay | 1/30/2014

    " It is hard to comment on this book. It was beautifully written and adds an insider's view to the war that was such a huge part of my teenage years. I don't think I have ever read a book before about Vietnam, but the war being described could have easily been Iraq or Afghanistan as well. The story is gripping, and haunting, and very memorable. It will make you laugh, it will make you sad, and it will make you angry. War can become an addiction - like the lotus flowers described by Homer. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes to read with depth; it would be a great book club read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Emily | 1/17/2014

    " Absolutely loved this book. I've never considered myself remotely interested in books about wars, but this one had me sucked in from the very beginning. The author has a beautiful style of writing. Can't wait to read more from this author. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jerri | 10/19/2013

    " Boring for the most part. The history and the way the country was described were interesting but the characters didn't feel very well developed - sort of two demential. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Evelyn Leong | 9/17/2013

    " Haunting and powerful. Character development was subtle but by the end, I knew who Helen Adams was and what motivated her. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ruth Vanderhart | 10/21/2012

    " 3.5 really. A good read--and a fine first novel. Vietnam war through the eyes of a Life photographer. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lysa | 10/10/2012

    " Although I really wasn't a fan of the main character I enjoyed the story over all. The author has a very good way of keeping you interested. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Debbie | 10/2/2012

    " The best book I have read in a very long time. Beautifully written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Poodytat | 9/19/2012

    " Better than I thought it would be. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Verna Seal | 5/15/2012

    " Beautifully written, thought-provoking, loved the characters. Loved it! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lindsey | 3/4/2012

    " This is a great book about a photographer during the Vietnam War. It was a touching story and makes you feel like you are there with her. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Aldona | 2/17/2012

    " I loved this book. It was great to read now as I vividly remember the Vietnam War and how unearthly it all seemed. This book takes you right into the action and forces you to breathe the air and care and even long for the pho soup on the corner stand. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sharlene | 5/20/2011

    " a cross between a book documenting the vietnam experience for a woman photographer, and a harlequin. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elaine | 5/19/2011

    " This was one of the BEST books I've read in a very long time - so good in fact that I've already recommended it to other people. Even if you have no previous knowledge of the Vietnam war, or how it affected individuals, it is a great read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carol | 5/18/2011

    " This book brought the Vietnam War to a personal level. It made me think about the Vietnamese dilemma of who to support and trust. Even after seeing movies about the Vietnam War and reading other books, I learned quite a bit about the war and its people. We should have never been there. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Catherine | 5/16/2011

    " Creative, engrossing. Very well written. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Terry | 5/12/2011

    " Finally now have a better understanding of the war in Vietnam. I liked the story and the characters, otherwise could not have kept going through some graphic gory details. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Pbradshaw | 5/10/2011

    " Really enjoyed this book. It takes place during the time of the Vietnam war. It's about a female journalist and how she is treated during those times when females in this profession were rare and all that she saw and lived during these sad times. Again, a must read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda | 5/9/2011

    " I loved it. The characters were solid. The setting was great. I loved Helen and her increasing addiction to the war. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 5/9/2011

    " Very, very well done. The descriptions are so acute you would think the author was there as a war photographer. Highly recommended. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jennifer | 5/8/2011

    " I tried, but really did not love it. Maybe I'm just really tired of the strong woman falling in love in a dramatically, life changing way in a half a page. I thought the characters needed a lot more development. "

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About the Author
Author Tatjana Soli

Tatjana Soli, born in Salzburg, Austria, and a graduate of Stanford, is an American novelist and short story writer. Her novels have won such awards as the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, made the short list for the Los Angeles Book Prize, and made the list of New York Times Notable Books. Her stories have appeared in StoryQuarterly, Confrontation, Gulf Coast, and other publications. Her work has twice been listed in the 100 Distinguished Stories in Best American Short Stories.

About the Narrator

Kirsten Potter, who graduated with highest honors from Boston University, has narrated numerous audiobooks and has performed for television and in theaters across the country. She has won several awards, including eleven AudioFile Earphones Awards, and been a three-time finalist for the prestigious Audie Award for best narration. Her work has been recognized by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts and by AudioFile magazine, among many others.