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Publisher's Summary

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 2016.

It is April 1975, and Saigon is in chaos. At his villa, a general of the South Vietnamese army is drinking whiskey and, with the help of his trusted captain, drawing up a list of those who will be given passage aboard the last flights out of the country. The general and his compatriots start a new life in Los Angeles, unaware that one among their number, the captain, is secretly observing and reporting on the group to a higher-up in the Viet Cong.

The Sympathizer is the story of this captain: a man brought up by an absent French father and a poor Vietnamese mother, a man who went to university in America but returned to Vietnam to fight for the Communist cause.

A gripping spy story, an astute exploration of extreme politics, and a moving love story, The Sympathizer explores a life between two worlds and examines the legacy of the Vietnam War in literature, film, and the wars we fight today.

©2016 Viet Thanh Nguyen (P)2016 Audible, Ltd

Critic Reviews

"A fierce novel written in a refreshingly high style and charged with intelligent rage." ( Financial Times)
"[A] dark and exciting debut novel.... Black humour seeps through these pages." ( Wall Street Journal)

What listeners say about The Sympathizer

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    5 out of 5 stars

Best Narrator, best story.

An amazing book narrated by one of the best narrators. His voice colours in the moods and makes it an authentic story telling time.

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  • Simon
  • 11-06-16

The Unknown Underlined by the Unspoken

I know I know, ideas above my station! From Child, Rankin and Cornwell to Viet Thanh Nguyen's debut novel! The thing is when I saw the 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner unrated at the time, possibly unread and seemingly unloved it just seemed too much of a curio to turn my head from. I'm not even going to begin to pretend that I know what makes a good prize winning novel, that's for much wiser minds than mine to weigh up and decide upon.

But did the book entertain me? Hell yes! Some of the passages have genuine humour and much of the book is blackly satirical and just as an example includes the lead character's discovery of the sexuality of raw squid! I'll say no more on that but a myriad topics get covered and while these characters existed half a world apart from me it seems, shock horror, that there are more similarities between the peoples of the world than disparities.

Did the book make me think? Yes again. This does descend to some pretty dark stuff including incidents of violence, conscience, political expedience and the mental cruelty of torture. Our written narrator is not only of mixed parentage, something looked down upon in the Vietnamese culture but also a Viet Cong double agent! That's enough to stretch anyone's mind and the author takes no prisoners while discussing both Western and Oriental culture.

Did the book excite me? Yes, there are some tense scenes including the early escape from Vietnam which was particularly well done albeit tragic in nature.

So was it great? I suspect as books go it genuinely is. So much so that I will return to it as I have no doubt that multiple re-readings would unearth more gems from this multi-layered tome. As an audiobook it's not perfect though and it does take considerable concentration. At least by my standards! Francois Chau's mildly accented English gives the feel of authenticity but otherwise paints the text in fairly arid tones. I am sure I lost nuance in some of the more philosophical and humorous passages.

So, a very accomplished book and one that I am very glad that I have completed. So much so that I will indeed give it another try some time to see what I missed first time!

21 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-04-18

Mixed views

A fascinating story about post war Vietnam refugees, with a lot of philosophical musings on the nature of race, political ideologies, & the refugee experience. A fairly dull delivery though unfortunately which spoilt it a bit for me

4 people found this helpful

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  • Gill
  • 12-08-18

Long, and heavy

Some might like this but very heavy and too drawn out for me. I liked the voice and performance of reader was good but the story demanded to much thought to really appreciate

1 person found this helpful

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  • @eleniaudibles
  • 11-27-18

An Emotional Sensation

I had never heard of this writer before but was looking for literature to read that has been translated into English. I'm so glad I found this novel, it's truly a masterpiece and so illuminating! Without giving much away, I laughed, I cried and I felt such deep kingship with the Vietnamese people affected by the Vietnam War. I really recommend this book to anyone who wants to try something new and read literature that hasn't got a fully Westernised backdrop.

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  • hfffoman
  • 10-24-20

Wonderful - despite the awful narration

Despite the horrible narration which sounds like the narrator wants to kill someone, this is a wonderful book, Certainly the subject matter will put some people off. It is set in the aftermath of the Vietnam war and contains a great deal of gruesome treatment of men and women. To avoid spoilers I won't say any more about the story, except that it is ultimately about politics, humanity, culture, and the struggle for wholeness of the human spirit. Professional reviewers and prize committees have praised the book with much eloquence and erudition. I will commend it simply for two reasons. It exudes intelligence and perception; and the quality of the writing is superb. I can think of very few writers whose prose comes near to the grace, wit and sharp wisdom of Mr Nguyen. I found almost every line a pleasure.

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  • D. Jones
  • 02-16-20

Not what I expected

I’d read a few reviews before deciding to buy this. It’s a strange story and not at all what I thought, but that’s okay. The narrator’s voice gives it a certain authenticity, but likewise the guy rarely gives any emotion and it’s a long monologue. In a way, that makes sense... as he’s reading a confession... but it makes it very hard to listen and give it your full attention. I was torn between 3 and 4 stars on story - I quite liked it but like I say, not really the story you might be expecting.

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  • Stephen Frame
  • 12-13-19

Resonant lessons from history

A narrative full of humanity and humour with a powerful conclusion. Listening to the final chapter on the day of the 2019 uk election result... gave much pause for thought

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  • Raf
  • 11-13-18

A brilliant book

A thought-provoking and clever book, gripping and moving story line. The author makes a number of incredibly deep points and critiques regarding different countries and ideologies, as well as what goes wrong with idealism. Along the way, a number of thoughts, often entertaining, on numerous other matters of daily life. A must read

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  • Ashley
  • 08-23-18

Wonderful Voice

Narrator excellent - wonderful voice to listen to... Never tired of his smooth voice - recommend

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  • jaisalmeera
  • 05-11-18

A revelation

I knew nothing about this author before I bought the book so It's a joy to have accidently made such a good decision. The central character who narrates the book takes pride in having learnt Engllish to a level above many native speakers and therefore the telling of his story is a linguistic tour de force. highly recommend

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  • Christopher
  • 11-20-16

Do yourself a favour!

So great! An amazing listen 👂 there are times I had to pull my car over while listen as I was so engaged in the book.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Tom
  • 10-21-19

Complex, philosophical, edgy

Overall, very enjoyable. At its peaks, some of the best fiction I’ve read. The overuse of often questionable similes got irritating, like a thick balsamic glaze smeared beneath each course of literary delights, coating my mind with its sticky lingering flavour long after I’ve finished chewing through their meaning. But there’s so much to love about this book, not least of which is a new appreciation of what the Vietnamese went through.

1 person found this helpful

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  • S c.
  • 09-14-19

Keeps me thinking

I can't write a beautiful enough narrative to describe the beauty that this book holds. It's words float and there meanings will stay on your mind.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Andrew Foster
  • 07-29-17

It's got it all

Incredible writing, great historical insight into the war and Vietnam, and lucid critiques of American culture and thinking. This would be a great book if it covered any one aspect but this book shines in them all. I've already recommended this to many of my friends and heartily recommend it to you, too.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-06-16

Brilliant novel on so many levels

This is an entertaining, enthralling novel with fascinating insights into the Vietnamese experience. Everything rings true. I charged through this wonderful book. Loved it.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-13-20

Fun, yet disassociated read

I like what the author did with this book, materialising personal experience and second hand stories told to him to create this fictional Vietnam. I really wish that it was real, it would have carried more weight to it for me. I had to double check that it was a fiction book a few times. An entertaining read, with many philosophical questions and lessons for the reader. Some tales were funny other sad, etc. At times I could not follow where they were, if in Vietnam, US or Laos... but I kept reading... It depicts some of humanities tougher choices...