Skip to content

June 12, 2017


The Sympathizer

by N@ncy



  1. This book grabs the reader with the first sentence:
    ” I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces.”
  2. The theme of being divided into two halves (..two faces)
    was laced throughout the text:
    ‘better to be…
    villain than virtuous extra
    to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven
    loved than hated
    hated than ignored.
  3. The narrator’s tragic flaw is in the title:
  4. He would be better off if he saw things from one side,
  5. but he didn’t. He saw it from both sides
  6. ch 14: “you’re too sympathetic, the General said….”
  7. Writing was at times very original.
  8. — She had a mind like an abacus, the spine of a drill instructor,
  9. and a body of a virgin even after five children
  10. — Cognac made everything beautiful,
  11. …the equivalent of a mother’s kiss for a grown man.
  12. Religion is a prominent theme in the book
  13. The narrator is the bastard the son of a maid and French priest.
  14. Again the ‘two faces’ of the narrator are visible (ch 2).
  15. —  “We genuflected, but in actuality we were atheists.
  16. The text is riddled with ecclesiastical allusions.
  17. — holy men like my father, who had not only holes in
  18. his socks but also had a hole somewhere in his soul.
  19. — in his cassock, this holy man who sweated in his
  20. unnatural garb to save us from our tropical sins.

Last thoughts:

  1. This was a very intense.
  2. There were times I was captivated by the narrator’s observations.
  3. There were times I was bored to death.
  4. (movie-making in Thailand and re-education camp).
  5. The climax began in chapter 19.
  6. It was a difficult read (violence, torture) and did not enjoy it.
  7. Nguyen ends the book still trying to answer
  8. universal and timeless questions about
  9. power, revolution, freedom dreaming of eternal sleep
  10. …or dreaming of nothing.
  11. This is a unique book by a new voice in America.
  12. I hope you take the time to read it
  13. …and decide for yourself if it is a winner.







6 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jun 17 2017

    You’ve confirmed what I already suspected – I will need to be in the right mood to tackle this book.

    And that mood is not the one I’m in right now 😏


    • Jun 17 2017

      No, this is not an uplifting book.
      Perhpas Brideshead Revisited (E. Waugh) would suit your mood.
      Waugh is a brilliant writer, a dash of humor and subtle insights about life.
      I just read it with the images of the TV series flashing across my laptop screen.
      If you ever need an audio book…this is the best one via
      Jeremy Irons narrates the book….and I was mesmerized by his beautiful voice!
      Take care…and enjoy your winter hibernation….

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jun 17 2017

        Brideshead is a favourite of mine too. I used to have a cd of the book that I kept in the car, but I’m just realising now that’s it been a long time since I’ve seen it anywhere!!

        Maisie Dobbs is working a treat right now. Last night as I was drifting off to sleep I even had a few thoughts about what to write in a log post – something that has been absent all week!

        Perhaps I’m slowly coming round….


      • Jun 17 2017

        That is a good sign.
        I used books about art (Monet, Boudin, Van Gogh, Mondrian) to ease myself back into blogging. In a non-ficiton book you can high-light just a few items that caught your attention….and embellish your thoughts with images.
        It is a soothing reading experience. As you contemplate the image art can help reveal what lies deep in the observer.


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. #20BooksOfSummer | NancyElin
  2. Wrap-up #20BooksOfSummer 2017 | NancyElin

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Note: HTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to comments

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: