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4.4 out of 5 stars
When Heaven and Earth Changed Places
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 29 May 1999
Karl Burns(normanstansfield@yahoo.com) from Glasgow,Scotland , May 22, 1999 A MUST READ FOR EVERY WALK OF LIFE I was fortunate enough to come across this wonderful book purely by chance last year.Miss le ly Hayslip gives a truely heart rending account of her life as a little peasant girl living in war torn vietnam.This book really puts you through an emotional meat grinder at times tearing apart your insides with Le ly's terrifying accounts of her own terrible suffering and that of her family and indeed all those around her leaving you with an awful empty feeling of total sadness and total lack of faith for the human race.Amazingly Despite all her own horrific experience of human ignorance and cruelty she bears no ill will or malice towards her fellow man and through her own incredible courage and strength of spirit,she inevitably leaves us all with a strong sense of hope and her message of compassion and peace. Sadly this terrific book seems to have been largly overlooked which is a great shame as it is a real eye opener and has so much more to say than just your average account of the horrors of war.Its a deeply moving account of one very brave little womans triumph of spirit in the face of total adversity.Anyone with the tiniest shred of compassion will be moved to tears.It Really puts our own little problems and gripes into perspective. One of the most profound and touching books i have ever read.I cannot recommend it enough,please get your hands on it and read it NOW
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 10 March 1999
I read this book because it was assigned for an English class. Half way through the book, I hated it because it was too brutal and unsettling for somebody who knew nothing about the Vietnam War. It's hard to believe how anyone could have experienced, and yet endured all that Le Ly went through. I didn't appreciate reading about the gory and cruel details that she experienced, but after reading half way through the book, I couldn't put it down either. In the end, I really learned something about the war that most of the younger generations today never learned.. and even if we did, it was probably from the grotesquely portrayed account by Hollywood films.
This is a good book, and I have learned something truly valuable. I will never think of Vietnam war or Veterans day the same way I did before I read this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 20 December 1998
I have to admitt that I began to read this book with a complete lack of enthusiasm. My English teacher had assigned it as a summer reading book, and I suspected it to be like all the others. That is boring and filled with fluff. However, about half way through I realized that this book was something different. I was feeling both the joy and the pain that Le Ly experienced. And I was able to picture myself in the same situations she was putt in, and realized how horrible war was. I came out of this book with more than I came in. I came out with a profound knowlege of war based not on some fantasy character, but on the real life story of one poor little girl. Any one who wonders what war is like should read this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 26 September 1998
Written from a different point of view than most books about Vietnam. This is more than just a book about war. Le Ly is daring, resilient, hopeful, and entrepreneurial, on her journey from Vietnam to America and on to what she sees as her mission in life. This book is a real page-turner. Highly recommended
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 December 1998
This book is a wonderful source for those who are interested in the Vietnam War. It is more common to focus on the American experience in war; not often are the horrible occurances that Vietnamese went through emphasized in course lectures and other talks. The only problem I found while reading this book is that so many terrible situations that Hayslip went through are emphasized that the reader begins to be desensitized to the trauma. However, this book is a wonderful portrayal of one of the strongest women I have ever heard of; her background and noble quest to "lose labels" and reach out and help the people of Vietnam, one of the poorest countries in the world, should be heard.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 2012
this book was a wonderful companion during my recent trip in Viet-Nam. It helped me to understand more deeply the spirit of this people, their way of approaching life and to realize a bit all the suffering they went through and that love is really the only thing which matters.
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on 1 August 2011
A fascinating and well written insight into the experience of an intelligent woman from a village in Vietnam caught up in the Vietnam War of the 1960s and early 70s between the Communist/ North Vietnamese on one side and the anti-Communist `Republican'/ South Vietnamese and their American and other allies on the other, a war in which we can possibly say with hindsight that both sides were wrong.

This book was made into a film Heaven and Earth [DVD] [1994] directed by Oliver Stone. The film had neither commercial nor critical success on release but to me is actually one of Stone's best. Ideally see the film first, then read the book. The film changes some details and incidents but preserves the spirit of the book well.

Le Ly grows up in Central Vietnam, a region that has its own culture and identity but was partitioned between North and South Vietnam during the war period.

Her parents remembered the ruthless Japanese occupation in World War 2 and the war between the French colonialists and the Vietnamese Communist guerillas that followed. By the time Le Ly is old enough to understand what is going on the Americans and the South Vietnamese Republic have succeeded the French in fighting against the Vietnamese Communists for control of the country.

Most but not all villagers initially secretly sympathise with the Communists but some have cause to regret that later. It is dangerous to be seen to support either side, but also dangerous not to do so. Although the village is still officially ruled by the South Vietnamese and patrolled from time to time by South Vietnamese and American troops, unofficially Communist guerillas become so powerful and feared that no family may even hold a celebratory meal without Communist permission. Each household has to eat out of doors each day so that they can be seen not to be consuming more than the Communists have authorised.

Le Ly, secretly a young Communist activist, is arrested and harshly punished by the South Vietnamese authorities, and then released. However, the Communists assume her release means she must have betrayed them, and she then suffers at their hands too.

Eventually Le Ly flees her village and finds ways to survive in a city, where she becomes pregnant. Despite her former Communist beliefs she takes to the free enterprise economy and survives by trading, although in the midst of the war her situation remains difficult and dangerous.

Eventually she meets and marries an American soldier much older than herself who takes her to the USA. Le Ly admits she never loved him and married for material advantage and to escape the situation in Vietnam. In our culture many consider marrying without love for money and passport wrong and cynical. However, in the Vietnamese society in which Le Ly grew up, marriage for love was thought a selfish luxury. Life was too hard and precarious for such indulgencies, one has to marry for material advantage.

Some things recounted in this book that the author or others she knew suffered are horrible to think about. However, the descriptions are restrained and do not emphasise the brutality. Even relatively squeamish and sensitive people like me [we legal vampires are much misunderstood!] will probably be OK reading this book.

Although the Americans can be criticised for a good deal, they are not necessarily worse than their opponents. The worst atrocities described (fortunately only briefly) are possibly those committed by their South Korean allies and (in the last period of French colonial rule in the 1950s) by French colonial troops from Morocco.

However, this is not a sombre or depressing book. It has a semi-happy ending and we meet many interesting characters and details along the way, such as the different kinds of ghosts the Vietnamese believe in; or the custom that even upper class Vietnamese wash their own underwear.

Fine book; well worth reading. Even better see the film `Heaven and Earth' first and then read this.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 March 1998
This is the fourth time I have purchased Le Ly's books because I keep sending them to friends. Her books are not for the faint-hearted to be sure, but then accurate accounts of the inhumanity of war never are. Le Ly struggled to survive the madness and insanity that Viet Nam became and a reading of her books can leave you experiencing a wide range of emotions you will then have to cope with on an individual basis.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 August 2003
This is a remarkable story about a very brave young woman caught up in a desperate struggle for survival. Well written in an easy, readable style. It gives an excellent view of a terrible conflict from the eyes of the average innocent unwillingly caught up in the horrors of modern warfare. The events within make you realise how lucky you are not to have lived a similar life. Thought provoking, soul searching stuff.
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on 7 November 2014
Excellent, follow up book a must too. Reading this should give the Powers that Be an incentive to avoid all future wars - but of course it wont. But its definitely a book that shoiuld be read by all.
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