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When he left war-ravaged Vietnam some thirty years ago, journalist David Lamb averred "I didn't care if I ever saw the wretched country again." But in 1997, he found himself living in Hanoi, in charge of the Los Angeles Times's first peacetime bureau and in the midst of a country on the move, as it progresses toward a free-market economy and divorces itself from the restrictive, isolationist policies established at the end of the war. This was a new country; in Vietnam, Now, David Lamb brings it--and us--forward from its dark, distant past.
From the myriad personalities entwined in the dark, distant history of the war to those focused toward the future, Lamb reveals a rich and culturally diverse people as they share their memories of the country's past, and their hopes for a peacetime future. A portrait of a beautiful country and a remarkable, determined people, Vietnam, Now is a personal journey that will change the way we think of Vietnam, and perhaps the war as well.
Part memoir, part historical narrative, part travelogue, part journalism, Lamb's worthy effort is a personality-driven look at Vietnam today. One of the personalities is Lamb himself. The veteran Los Angeles Times correspondent is not shy about sharing his personal feelings. He offers details about his life covering the war in the 1960s and about his almost blissful four years working and living there from 1997 to 2001. "ife was good," Lamb says about his tour of duty in Hanoi, which he calls "a magical city, steeped in beauty and seductive charm, the last capital left possessing the romance of bygone Indochina." Lamb also has kind words for the Vietnamese people, whom he found to be gracious and friendly. His love for the Vietnamese, though, does not prevent Lamb from harshly condemning the strict Communists who run the country for their totalitarian sins, past and present. Lamb provides plenty of historical background, primarily about the American war, as he covers the expected gamut of issues. They include the impact of the war on the victorious Northerners and the defeated Southerners, the role of overseas Vietnamese, the American and Vietnamese MIA questions, the legacy of the war among American and Vietnamese veterans, and the state of U.S.-Vietnamese political relations. Much of this ground has been covered extensively in the media and in several other books. Lamb offers little new, except for his often perceptive personal observations based on his long journalistic experience and his on-the-ground experience covering Vietnam the war and Vietnam the country. B&w photos.