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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The other side of the river..., 29 Nov 2010
By 
John P. Jones III (Albuquerque, NM, USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
...to use Blasé Pascal's phrase, relating to his rhetorical question concerning his right to kill another man, just because he lived on that opposite bank. Dang Thuy Tram's diaries are an important addition to that small group of Vietnamese books concerning the American War which have appeared in English, and include Bao Ninh's "The Sorrow of War," and Duong Thu Huong's "Novel Without a Name."

Alain-Fournier was another great writer whose life was cut far too short by war during the very early months of World War I. Both he and Thuy died at the same age, 27. Alain-Fournier's literary reputation was established prior to his death, Thuy's has finally come, posthumously. The strength of her diary is the immediacy and authenticity of the comments. She was quite optimistic at the beginning, but with the mounting casualties in her unit, and the relentless bombardment from the Americans, she turns more pessimistic, and foreshadows her own death. For those portions I would have given her a 5-star rating, but the frequent interjection of that leaden communist rhetoric, and the vague treatment of the personnel struggles within her unit, and the party, I decided to give only a 4-star rating, preferring both of the books above. Also, there were the issues that were only briefly discussed, and were of essential interest - her medical work. There was never an adequate description of her clinic, and the availability of medical supplies. Malaria, and what the GI's called "jungle rot," (fungal infections) were unmentioned yet must have been a significant portion of her work. She mentions in passing the poison that was Agent Orange, but again gives no real description of the effect it had on her unit.

Tim O'Brien, probably the greatest American novelist to come out of this tragic war, was in the infamous Americal Division, in Quang Ngai province, the unit that Thuy repeatedly called "the American bandits." He might have actually have been on one of the patrols that she had to face. The Americal's bases were on the lowlands, near the coast, and the mountains loomed to the West, where Thuy lived, and were a constant source of fascination and beauty - the light was never quite the same on those mountains. One of O'Brien's novels, "Going After Cacciato" explored the fantasy of one soldier finally having had enough, and deciding to walk away from the war, through those mountains, all the way to Europe. I shared that fascination with those mountains, during the same time Thuy was in them, and even had the same fantasy about walking away from the war. I was in a tank unit that spent four months, in late '68, in the next province south, Binh Dinh. One of our jobs was the road "security" of Highway 1, and on several days, we would sit, overlooking the South China Sea, at the boundary between Quang Ngai and Binh Dinh province, only 2 to 5 miles from Thuy's clinic in the hills.

Thuy spoke many times of her desire for revenge against the invaders of her country. An honest and understandable emotion from those who suffered years of misery, and the loss of so many friends. This emotion was shared by her compatriots, and has now been dissipated as they welcome American tourists to their country. I would have loved to have discussed this transformation with her in a tea house in her beloved Hanoi.

Finally, how many more diaries like this are currently being produced in Iraq?

(Note: Review first published at Amazon, USA, on February 22, 2008)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very moving but the format kind of ruins it. DO NOT READ THE INTRODUCTION FIRST, 21 Nov 2010
I like this book, its laid out like a diary with different dates on the page and its very easy and fast quick to read as you turn pages quickly and theres always just "one more" entry before you can put it down. I would give it 5 stars if it wasnt the 2 following flaws. First, there is a lot of foot notes on every page. Granted, some of the words and abbreviations should be explained but I can't help but feel they wont overboard and perhaps could have found another way to get this information across. And secondly and most importantly DO NOT READ THE INTRODUCTION FIRST, read it last. You will regret it if you do!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Vietnam past and present, 28 April 2012
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I got this kindle book because I was visiting Vietnam. The story was incredible and to see Vietnam today one would think the war never happened but it was an enlightening story of how conditions were and the duress the people suffered.
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Last Night I Dreamed of Peace: An extraordinary diary of courage from the Vietnam War
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