Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
Winner of the 2016 Edgar Award for Best First Novel
Winner of the 2016 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction
“[A] remarkable debut novel.” —Philip Caputo, New York Times Book Review (cover review)
Winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize, a startling debut novel from a powerful new voice featuring one of the most remarkable narrators of recent fiction: a conflicted subversive and idealist working as a double agent in the aftermath of the Vietnam War.
The winner of the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as seven other awards, The Sympathizer is the breakthrough novel of the year. With the pace and suspense of a thriller and prose that has been compared to Graham Greene and Saul Bellow, The Sympathizer is a sweeping epic of love and betrayal. The narrator, a communist double agent, is a “man of two minds,” a half-French, half-Vietnamese army captain who arranges to come to America after the Fall of Saigon, and while building a new life with other Vietnamese refugees in Los Angeles is secretly reporting back to his communist superiors in Vietnam.
The Sympathizer is a blistering exploration of identity and America, a gripping espionage novel, and a powerful story of love and friendship.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
This remarkable debut tells a powerful story about the aftermath of the Vietnam War from a too-rare Vietnamese perspective. Author Viet Thanh Nguyen’s nameless narrator is a double agent who works for the Viet Cong as a mole and spies on the Americans as a member of the South Vietnamese army. The novel opens with his harrowing escape from Saigon, but the story takes its darkest, most unusual turns when the protagonist resettles in Los Angeles and continues his espionage. Nguyen’s writing is so good that he kept us turning pages even in the book’s bleakest moments.
This astonishing first novel has at its core a lively, wry first-person narrator called the Captain, and his two school friends Bon and Man, as they navigate the fall of Saigon and the establishment of the Communist regime in Vietnam in 1975. The Captain is a half-Vietnamese double agent; he reports to his Communist minder Man who, unbeknownst to Bon, is a Republican assassin. The Captain and Bon make it on to one of the harrowing last flights out of Saigon as the city is overtaken by the Viet Cong. They travel with the Captain's superior, the General, and his family, although Bon's own wife and son are shot making their escape. The Vietnamese exiles settle uncomfortably in an America they believe has abandoned their country, as they are reduced to new roles as janitors, short-order cooks, and deliverymen. The General opens a liquor store, then a restaurant (in which his proud wife cooks the best pho outside Vietnam) as a front to raise money for a counter rebellion. In order to protect his identity as a spy, the Captain is forced to incriminate others, and as lines of loyalty and commitment blur, his values are compromised until they are worthless. Nguyen's novel enlivens debate about history and human nature, and his narrator has a poignant, often mirthful voice.
Revelatory and enlightening
As a child of a veteran who fought in Vietnam, who died many years later of his mental wounds inflicted by the fighting of that war, I read this novel with a great deal of sympathy towards almost all of the characters. This book is the kind of novel that’s best read by students of history, because it encourages the reader to recognize that history is not a set of facts, but the perspective from which you understand those facts. I will be recommending this book to almost anyone who wishes to try to begin to comprehend a war that we are just beginning to contend with as a nation, and to anyone who wishes to understand the greater horrors of war collectively.
A peek into an Asian American experience
I had the good fortune of encountering Viet Than Nguyen during his high school years. I was the only Asian American teacher at the school during that time and the Asian American student population certainly wasn’t what it is today. I think The Sympathizer definitely provides a unique insight into the Vietnamese American experience, the Asian American experience in general, and maybe even the overall American experience. There are demons that inhabit all of our existences and Viet Than Nguyen has poetically afforded us an opportunity to confront some of them.
Riveting, Unique & Spellbinding.