You may think I’m exaggerating when I say that this is perhaps the most original novel that I’ve read in years, but I promise you, I’m not. Written in an epistolary style, we immediately learn that the protagonist is writing a confession.
Set in the last days of the Vietnam war, our unnamed narrator is working for a powerful general in the South as they are making preparations to evacuate to the United States. However, our narrator is a double agent who is also working for the North.
Now, this isn’t your standard thriller. Oh no. Whilst the central plot line is taut and exciting, a good 50% of this novel is made up of philosophical musings. Usually this would bore me and induce eye rolls, but Nguyen offers up some fascinating commentary throughout. The protagonist doesn’t fit into the cookie cutter style spy character, nor does his motives throughout the novel. Being a son of a white French man and a Vietnamese mother, having an American style education, and possessing the ability to understand both sides of the Vietnamese conflict, our unnamed narrator truly reflects his namesake of The Sympathizer.
I must mention that I listened to this via Audible. I also have the kindle version, but for some reason, I couldn’t get into as much. The audible narration is very good and because the narrator is talking to an unnamed capture, having narration makes you feel like you are listening to to his written confession.
If you’re a fan of Vietnamese history, liked books such as The Headmaster’s Wager, or simply want to take a gamble on something completely different to your usual read, then go ahead and pick this one up.
Until next time,