The Sympathizer

Thoughts tsbyvtn by Viet Thanh Nguyen, Audible Audio 2015, 13 hours 53 minutes

Narrated by François Chau – excellent!

Challenge: for my personal challenge to read as many of the Rooster short list as possible.
Genre: Pulitzer Prize Winner!  (though this is a recent distinction – very exciting!)
Type/Source: Audiobook / Audible Credit
 Why I read this now: Stars aligned, I guess. I do believe that the Rooster commentary mentions this as a good audio so when it was time for me to use a credit, this is what got selected.

WHAT’s it ABOUT:  The fictionalized first-person account of a North Vietnamese communist spy who works for the South Vietnamese military, trained by the CIA, educated in America, son of a French priest and his South Vietnamese housekeeper? or paramour? (I forget; both?) at the time of the Fall of Saigon and after. It is set in Vietnam, America/California and has a brief interlude in the Philippines.

WHAT’s GOOD:  It is historical fiction with all the cool things that push my buttons – lush descriptions, witty repertoire, cutting insights into human nature, philosophy, action and thrilling suspense, conflict of conscience, love of sorts and falling in love or not, HISTORY, etc. I really wouldn’t call myself a spy-novel reader but I thought this quite fascinating.

What’s NOT so good: At times, I wonder if it had all the stereotypical elements a spy novel should have but I haven’t read very many and maybe a spy-novel is supposed to. Truly, I didn’t know what to expect but this delivers well on things I like in a story. ON THE OTHER HAND, I thought at times that it was too long and needed to get on with but I’m sure that was my mood and what was going on in ‘real life’ conflicting with time and interest to keep invested. But I pushed through and ended up liking the book overall.

FINAL THOUGHTS: This is often stated to be satire and of course, I can only recognize this from being told and not really of my own recognition. But I find that I am a big fan of satire even when I don’t quite get it. 

I am thrilled that this won the Pulitzer for Fiction 2016 only because 1) I just read it (validation?), 2) I somehow have unknowingly embarked on a Personal Pulitzer Challenge, and 3) the surprise and timing made it fun.

RATING: Four slices of pie. Pie actually was mentioned a lot – there is an entire sequence about eating humble pie that because in audio, I will either have to go hunt or skip…





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14 thoughts on “The Sympathizer

    1. I was really crazy with excitement which surprised and added to my excitement. Ever have that happen? when you realize what a nut you are when a spontaneous eruption of emotion happens and you wonder ‘huh?’? Anyway. I was SO pleased this won.

    1. I believe the satire of this is that the poor spy was not trusted and yet very trusted by both sides and then NOT trusted by the side with his true loyalty which made him question his entire belief system. It did have some chuckles of absurdity, too.

  1. A Pulitzer Prize challenge would be fun!
    This made me laugh: “But I find that I am a big fan of satire even when I don’t quite get it.” This is me, too!

  2. Look at you being all timely! I started reading this a few months back, couldn’t get into it, and set it aside for later. I guess it’ll have to be much much later now, because all my library’s copies are being checked out cause it won a Pulitzer. :p She who hesitates is often lost!

  3. Ha! I was happy when I saw it one the Pulitzer too because I had already read it for the Rooster! I didn’t think it was great, but I liked it. I think my biggest complaint was that it could have been shorter. It felt longer than it was.

    1. yes, I do think it could have been shorter but oh well. I really did enjoy it. I figured out that I had read another Pulitzer Fiction winner before its winning but it was the Goldfinch and EVERYONE had read that one… ;P

  4. TOB did pique my interest in this one, but I was not truly contemplating reading it until it won the Pulitzer. I am glad you reviewed it and enjoyed it as that makes it more likely I will read it sooner rather than later.

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