A slim, erotic and fable-like . . . book that picks up on many of Butler's abiding themes--the legacy of the Vietnam War, the clash of Vietnam's folklore and mysticism with American manners . . . [Butler is] a writer working to cast a spell. --New York Times Book Review In a deceptively understated manner, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Robert ...
A slim, erotic and fable-like . . . book that picks up on many of Butler's abiding themes--the legacy of the Vietnam War, the clash of Vietnam's folklore and mysticism with American manners . . . [Butler is] a writer working to cast a spell. --New York Times Book Review In a deceptively understated manner, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Robert Olen Butler introduces us to a pair of improbable modern lovers . . . [he] plants the seeds of a tragedy that will haunt his readers long after they finish this lyrical love story. --People In The Deep Green Sea, Robert Olen Butler has created an incandescent tale of modern love between a Vietnamese woman, orphaned in 1975 when Saigon fell to the Communists, and a Vietnam War veteran, returning from America to seek closure for decades-old emotional wounds. The more they nurture the love between them, the more they learn about each other, the more complex and dangerous their relationship becomes, and what follows conjures classical tragedy, infused with intense eroticism and with Butler's reverence for Vietnamese mythology and history. The Deep Green Sea is a landmark work in the literature of love and war.
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Publishers Weekly, 1997-11-03 In many ways, the Vietnam War defined Butler's writing. His most vivid work, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain, has been set there. In this sensual, tremulous and darkly portentous novel, war veteran Ben Cole returns to Saigon to try to understand the source of his postwar emotional lethargy. When he meets Tien, the enchanting 26-year-old employee of a tourist company, both immediately (perhaps too quickly to be credible) feel a compelling sexual attraction. The narrative is composed of their alternating voices, each describing their lovemaking in slow motion and with erotic explicitness. These sexual idylls are interspersed with flashbacks to Ben's war experiences and Tien's anguished memories of her mother's desertion when the conflict ended in 1975. As a bar girl and prostitute who had serviced American soldiers, Tien's mother feared retribution; just before she disappeared, she revealed that Tien's father was an American. When Ben realizes that Tien might be a daughter he never knew existed, they decide to try to find Tien's mother in her native village. During their trip on Highway One, the narrative achieves resonance as both the past and present coalesce for Ben. The ending, laboriously foreshadowed, assumes the mantle of classical tragedy. Butler's keenly observed picture of a politically and economically transformed country, and his sensitive descriptions of Vietnamese culture and spiritual beliefs, provide a fine balance to the more overwrought sections of the narrative. The novel suffers from a surfeit of run-on prose in which both protagonists express their thoughts in virtually indistinguishable voices. Though Butler excels in expressing the sensual delights of an intense passion, this tale of star-crossed lovers would have profited from less focus on the bed and more on the continuing reverberations of the tragic legacy of a brutal war. 75,000 first printing; author tour. (Jan.) FYI: Stories from Butler's Tabloid Dreams are the basis of an HBO special to be aired next spring. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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