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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heart-rending, thought-provoking biography
I bought this book while in Phnom Penh and reading it while there, added a poignancy to an already heart-rending experience. The first lines of the book said it all to me because I fell in love with the Mekong myself, and the people who live on its banks. Jon Swain's book River of Time touched me like Cambodia touched me and I came away from the country utterly...
Published on 21 Jun 2001 by angela_robson@hotmail.com

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
I chose this book for a friend who was going off travelling in this particular area - he found it interesting & an insight to the country he was going too.
Published 11 months ago by Ann E. C. Baker


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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A heart-rending, thought-provoking biography, 21 Jun 2001
By 
angela_robson@hotmail.com (Leiden, The Netherlands) - See all my reviews
This review is from: River Of Time (Paperback)
I bought this book while in Phnom Penh and reading it while there, added a poignancy to an already heart-rending experience. The first lines of the book said it all to me because I fell in love with the Mekong myself, and the people who live on its banks. Jon Swain's book River of Time touched me like Cambodia touched me and I came away from the country utterly entranced. The author depicts the lush beauty of these countries excellently, as well as the filth of war with its utter despair and futility. Swain has put into words my own sadness and imcomprehension of the Pol Pot regime, as well as the hope and good humour these people still possess. His power of description is marvellous and I recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone who wants to or has experienced the lands of the Mekong.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gruesome tale, but an outstanding book, 7 Aug 2005
By 
This review is from: River Of Time (Paperback)
I have read Jon Swain's book 'River of Time' a number of times. It is an incredibly moving story. Young journalist makes his way to Indochina to cover the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia in the course of which he becomes emotionally attached to the place. I guess Jon Swain will never be able to detach himself emotionally from Indo-China. You can read that right through the whole book.
'River of Time' is a gruesome tale. Jon Swain gives a vivid description of the civil war in Cambodia, the fall of Phnom Penh and the final days at the French Embassy (also depicted in The Killing Fields and in Francois Bizot's The Gate) and the end of Khmer Rouge rule in 1979 and the day after. He also covers the Vietnam War quite well and its end and gives a most horrendous account on the boat people and their fate. Swain's kidnapping by the Tigre People's Liberation Front in Ethiopia seems oddly out of place with this Indo-China tale, but to me it seemed emotionally important for understanding the rest of the book.
For anyone interested in Indo-China this is compulsory reading.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly wonderful book, 21 May 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: River Of Time (Paperback)
I read this book after a three week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia at the end of last year (and having had numerous badly photocopied versions thrust at me on the streets of Saigon!) I had visited many of the places that Jon wrote about and, like him and many many others, was captivated by it all in a way that is difficult to put your finger on. This book is nothing less than a love story but a very sad and poignant one - you can literally feel Jon's heartache as he realises that the countries have been changed forever by the massive political upheaval and events throughout the 1970s, which he witnessed so closely.
I think the book spoke to me more because I had recently visited the area but I would like to think that other readers would enjoy it despite having not gone there. It is beautifully written but in an easy style - I read it over a few evenings. It is the sort of book you can't put down but don't want it to end. The circumstances of reading it obviously influenced me greatly but this is definitely one of the best books that I have ever read. Highly recommended.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply wonderful, 11 Jun 2004
By 
ZDDQ140770 - See all my reviews
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This review is from: River Of Time (Paperback)
Having spent a great deal of time in SE Asia, I picked up this book with some trepidation: since Michael Herr's brilliant "Dispatches" there have been an awful lot of derivative books about gung-ho boys with toys running around getting shot at during the Vietnam War. This though, was different. This does cover the war, and its effects on the region, but the slant is much more personal and thoughful. Swain realises that there is an entrenched culture of beauty and delicacy mixed with a near-veneration for death and auto-destruction. This book has come closer to understanding the people and culture of the area than any other book i can remember. The book's observations of the profound changes which the region has gone through is spot-on. More importantly, this is a love-letter to a lost land, to lost lovers and friends. The passion and deep romanticism are very moving. I can't remember the last time i read a book so sensitive and delicate.
If you want to understand what European hubris has done to world, you must read this. Is this travel writing? a love story? a war story? all of them, but it doesnt matter. Read this, and then tell your friends to read it too.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a classic, 9 May 2008
This review is from: River Of Time (Paperback)
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars remarkable, moving and sad, 7 July 2010
By 
H. Rogers - See all my reviews
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This review is from: River Of Time (Paperback)
An excellent and moving account of Jon Swain's time as a journalist in Cambodia and Vietnam in the 70s. Anyone who has visited these countries can, in a small way,identify with the pull this region had on certain people. Jon Swain is very honest about his intoxication and fascination with both the region and the horrors of war and his determination to be part of it at all costs - giving up a good job to go freelance probably stifled his early journalist career. There is a certain sadness in someone who had (and knows he had)the best years of his life as a relatively early age. I lived in Hong Kong in the 80s and I meet several Vietnam era journalist in the FCC for whom Vietnam was the peak of their professional and personal lives and everything after paled in comparison. Some of them were sad figures. However, for anyone who wants a view of the Indo china conflict from the journalist point of view I would highly recommend this book in conjunction with Christopher J Kock's novel Highways to a war, in which the main character is partly based on camerman Neil Davis who covered the vietnam war only to be later killed in a minor coup in Thailand.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to read time and time again, 12 April 2001
By 
Mr. N. G. Fox "foxng1" (Lincolnshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: River Of Time (Paperback)
This is a personal account of Jon Swain's life and experiences as a journalist working in the beautiful but war torn lanscape of Cambodia and Vietnam (for example). The overriding sense of the futility of war and the lives of people it touches (including his own) is elegantly portrayed in this superb book.Jon Swain's personal account of how he escaped from the Khmer Rouge due to the courage of Haing Ngor (as depicted in the film "The Killing Fields") is one of many incidents and experiences. Swain also reflects on his own tragedy as well as the people around him. There is a sense of humility as well as humour and this combination makes this a book to read time and time again.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 11 Sep 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: River Of Time (Paperback)
I hesitated reading something on the region that wasn't fairly current, but it'd be hard to find a better book on Southeast Asia. Swain's story is an incredible one, and while many people have incredible stories to tell about their time in SE Asia, I've yet to see any account that's as well written as this one.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of great beauty, poingnancy and courage., 14 Sep 2012
By 
Christopher Morgan (Provence France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: River Of Time (Paperback)
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most memorable and moving book that I have ever read., 17 April 2000
By 
This review is from: River Of Time (Paperback)
I read this book for the first time some years ago and I still think of it regularly. It is not a book to be read if you are feeling morose or depressed as it is unremittingly sad and in fact leaves you with the feeling that Jon Swain was encouraged to write it to exorcise whatever demons had been left in him by his experiences in Vietnam and Cambodia.
I have probably bought more than 20 editions to give out to friends and family accompanied by the words, "this is the best book that I have ever read".
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River Of Time by Jon Swain
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