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4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 4 July 2015
An insight into the hypocrisy and hedonism of westerners seeking the mysticism of the Orient. Dress it up in as much cultural mumbo jumbo as you might like (as the author does) but it's really about sex (with compliant local beauties) and drugs (opium) and rock and roll (war - what is it good for. Voyerism it would seem).

I'd give it one star if it weren't for one excellent section describing the tragic experiences of the Vietnam boat people. That is compelling.
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on 14 September 2012
I have the very great honour to count Jon Swain amongst my friends.
An easy and almost jaunty exterior camouflages a man who loves to love but hides supreme courage with an almost boyish charm. Enduring the basic training of the Foreign Legion and the almost unspeakable horrors of Vietnam he wrote a book about his coverage of this grotesque war. Gavin Young writes 'It is hard to see how a better book could be written of this tumultuous and utterly disastrous period'. He adds by 'a sweet-natured man of total integrity who writes brillianty and brings to life Vietnam and Cambodia'.
Do not go there without this book I implore you.
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on 9 May 2008
Jon Swain relates the fall of Phnom Penh on first hand, the five years of silence and speculation and the stories of many survivors after the liberation. He was there when the airport was closed, he left friends and he knew well the political forces in the area
The book is written in a clear tone, without political or moral opinions, and with a controlled emotion. The narration of the events and the stories of common people give a series of images that left a strong imprint on me. The book is a classic on this period and I recommend it.
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on 15 September 2015
A brilliant read. A true picture of our time, and now the same situation is happening in the Middle East with the same ferocity and by the people with the same mentality, and ideology. We are only one this planet 3 score years and man inflicts this carnage on his fellow beings for what?
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on 16 January 2016
This was a disappointment.

Written by an aging british journalist, the book recalls his glory days in SE Asia. He describes a paradise and fills pages with anecdotes about visiting opium dens and brothels (before the nasty austere communists ruin it all). To Swain this is the 'tragedy' of the wars in indochina - that the 'civilized' world of white suited waiters, G&Ts in the foreign correspondents club, free and easily attainable sex and entertainment (provided you were a wealthy westerner) was taken away from him.

The actual people of SE Asia do not really factor in the story much themselves, largely just being seen mute unengaged observers, helpless victims or servants of one sort of another.

The approach to the well known controversies of the war are haphazard and lopsided. His account of the fall of Phnom Penh to the khmer rouge and the following horror and brutality is indeed harrowing and gripping (easily the most readable section of the book), but the khmer rouge themselves are just presented as an awful force of nature with little or no exploration of causation and the chain of events (most notably he is silent on the American bombing of eastern Cambodia and the vital role that played in their rise). Similarly with the war in vietnam, Swain finds the time to discuss the wonderfully good intentions the Americans had, but not the millions of civilian deaths they inflicted.
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on 4 February 2016
Fascinating book I read on the way to a tour of Vietnam (Viet cong tunnels) and Cambodia (killing fields and Mekong delta). Jon loves old Indo China and this book is about how affectionate you feel towards a people so polite they almost apologise for existing. The nightmare of the Vietnam war and pol pot are covered , as is the loss of the somewhat seedy Saigon and phenom Penh. Even in Eritrea the book stays on theme. But this book is also about westerners who escape from something by losing themselves in an alien culture with fewer 'rules'. I loved the book. I loved Jon's honest self discovery. You would love Vietnam and Cambodia. Neither of us can fully explain why I suspect.
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on 13 March 2016
He may have only spent 5 years in Indo-China but this book shows how the region oozes from him. What a life he led, and what experiences he had. We are now at Siem Reap, on way to Phnom Penh, and this book has fuelled our desire to experience the city and its tragic history. Well-written, clearly well informed (as much of it is first-hand), and surprisingly page-turning (obviously he has put his journalistic skills to good use), River of Time gives a vivid explanation of Indo-China's sad history, and his own personal love affair with the region. Covering not just the Khmer Rouge's stranglehold on Cambodia, but the Vietnam war, and its impact on Laos, this is a great history of the 1970s decade in particular. Frank, incisive and insightful, this is a compelling read. Thankyou for writing this book.
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on 22 November 2011
Jon Swain spent many years in Vietnam, and obviously left his heart there. He was brave, curious and meticulous, indispensable features of a good reporter, especially a war reporter. He was also detached from his grim subject matter and therefore able to keep a balanced and unbiased approach.

He can also be rather disconcerting when he effortlessly hops from one paragraph dedicated to the global consequences of the wr to the next paragraph in which he details a brothel in Saigon. But that is part of what makes reading his book fun! He is not a politologist, and unlike many journalists does not pretend to be one!

This book provides a highly valuable account of the final years of the Vietnam War (Swain was there from 1970 to 1975) and is still highly instructive nearly forty years on.
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on 6 March 2016
A moving and heartbreaking story. Jon is brutally honest about his time in Cambodia / Vietnam. I feel like I have a better understanding of what was happening there during the early 70's after reading his book.
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on 23 January 2015
Beautiful trip to memory lane of Indochina in the early 70ties, to its collapse and agony in 75, this is a wonderful and honest testimony of a man who fell in love with a land and sacrificed much for his passion. The eyes of a witness more than those of a voyeur, sad, touching and mesmerising.
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