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Hanoi Adieu: A Bittersweet Memoir of a Frenchman in Indochina Paperback – 24 Jul 2006
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A haunting memoir of a young man growing up during the years of French rule in Vietnam. Michel L'Herpiniere is a teenager when he arrives in Indochina in the years before World War II. He immediately falls in love with the country and the people, but gradually becomes aware that what is an idyll for the French is not seen the same way by the local population. Michel's story is inevitably entwined with the history of Vietnam in those years: the French response to the Viet Minh nationalist movement (Michel's high school history teacher is Professor Giap, later to become a leading figure in the Viet Cong), then the war and the Japanese occupation, and the refusal of the US to aid 'a colonial regime'. Michel is imprisoned by the Japanese, and defies curfews in the darkened streets of Hanoi. This is a story full of drama, but also of family, of love and growing up. Michel's experiences include visits to one of Hanoi's leading opium dens, and a deep friendship with its owner, Jo.Hanoi, Adieu contains within it the paradoxes of colonialism, the genuine affection for the place and the people, and the bewilderment when the people turn violently against the coloniser and demand self determination. It is also the moving human story of a life caught up in historic events.
About the Author
Mandaley Perkins is the author of Tropic Tide. She lives in Queensland and is the stepdaughter of Michel L'Herpiniere
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After just reading a few pages I knew I was in for a very good read. There is nothing quite like having a thick book that will take some time to read, knowing that you will enjoy every minute of it.
Simply stated, I have read millions of words about Vietnam, before, during, and after, the French War and the American War. And I was working there in 1968 in Saigon. But nothing that I have read or seen covered the time that this book covers.
It is about the personal experience of a French boy then man in Hanoi and Northern Vietnam during the period just before the Japanese occupation, through the Second World War, then the Chinese occupation, the French return to take over power from the Vietnamese, and then the French war until 1950.
I had read of the some of the historical events of those times, but as I found out, there was much that I didn't know, and had never been alluded to. Combined with the historical context of Northern Vietnam, there was the growing up, the resistance, the love affair, the opium, and the increasing despair that the the French were going to screw up and cause a war, which they did.
He also blames the United States for not supporting Ho Chi Minh when they could have, when they could have avoided all the horror that ensued from that mistake.
His naivety is endearing and frustrating at the same time, but certainly adds to the persona of Michel, who comes across as the kind of guy that, had the French had similar guys in charge, there would have never been another war after the Japanese were defeated.
The recipe he used to detox from opium sounds excellent, and for some, would be worth the price of the book.
This book deserves to be better known, there is nothing else quite like it.