July 4 2013
The Trader of Saigon opens in Vietnam in the 1980s. Alexander is an ex-US army deserter who trades in women, Hanh is a young Vietnamese woman who is trying her best to survive amidst appalling poverty, and Phuc is a business man fallen on hard times who will do anything in his power to protect his family. The intertwining of this disparate group of people weaves together a story of overwhelming greed and utter hopelessness.
Without doubt this is a stunning debut novel, and even though parts of it make for uncomfortable reading, there is no doubt that the evocative style of writing conveys a picture of helplessness and despair, and every sentence evokes a perfect sense of time and place. The mean and often dangerous streets of Hanoi and Saigon where corruption and misery linger on every street corner is expertly explored, and the often stilted and ambiguous nature of survival is encapsulated in a society which treated its women as commodities to be bought and sold.
On a personal level this is a difficult book to enjoy, but the good writing and fine attention to detail more than compensate for the harrowing storyline.
Definitely an author to watch !
My thanks to the team at Newbooks for my review copy of this book.