This book is narrated by Quan, a twenty-eight year-old soldier of the North Vietnamese Army who, after spending ten years in the jungles of central Vietnam, is thoroughly disillusioned by the horrible and absurd realities of war. The narrator's tone is one of disenchantment, of wistful longing for all that has been lost--youth, life, love, family. As also shown in Paradise of the Blind, Duong Thu Huong has a skill for detailed descriptions of everyday objects and scenes, which are often made grotesquely surreal by her minute, harsh, objective observations. For example, in describing the decrepit mental and physical state of Quan's childhood friend Bien, she writes, "He sat in a pile of filth and excrement, surrounded by pools of milky, rancid urine. A torn calendar. An old tin can filled with water." Everything touched upon by the war--the natural environment, the people--is made ugly, thus adding to the war's horror. Even her flowers are drenched in red colors of blood. In such an environment of degradation and death, people struggle to retain the smallest hint human decency. This struggle is movingly portrayed in the episode when Quan spends a night in a field station, the sole personnel of which is a homely girl who heroically goes about burying her dead comrades. Though forced by duty to spend the best years of her life in a bleak environment, she tries to retain some of her youthful feminine idealism by decorating her cave-room with pictures of French singers and a paper flower, and washing and combing her hair to get rid of the stench of human corpses which never goes away. Her futile effort in trying to get Quan to make love to her expresses a tragic desperation. The book has no main conflict, other than Quan's personal, psychological, spiritual conflict. As such, the book has no central story-line, but is rather a series of dramatic episodes of the last days of the war, interspersed with reveries that are sometimes nightmarish, sometimes poetically dreamy. The book raises the question: Is ideological glory worth its heavy price paid for in the irrevocable LOSS of love, life, and innocence.