BY PEYTON POPP – STAFF WRITER
Danielle La Londe, in addition to taking care of her dog named The Dude, is an assistant professor of Classical Studies here at Centre College. When it comes to reading books in living languages, she recommends The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen.
“I read this novel over the summer and fell in love with the unnamed (and entertainingly unreliable) narrator who tells his story of escaping Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war and resettling in America as a Vietnamese refugee,” she said of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel.
The Sympathizer is about a double agent in the Vietnam war, and it explores the main character’s conflicted mind. La Londe said of the narrator’s point of view, “This is a powerful novel about how war fractures identity, and this novel gives voice to an important Vietnamese and Vietnamese-American perspictive of a war that in the United States has been mostly viewed from the perspective of US military veterans who served in that conflict.”
La Londe went on to explain that the narrator is “a man of divided sympathies to his homeland of Vietnam and to his new life in the United States,” which is part of what makes the novel so compelling. According to the publisher’s website, Bill Gates said on the subject of the narrator’s loyalty, “Nguyen doesn’t shy away from how traumatic the Vietnam War was for everyone involved. Nor does he pass judgment about where his narrator’s loyalties should lie. Most war stories are clear about which side you should root for—The Sympathizer doesn’t let the reader off the hook so easily.”
The novel was Nguyen’s first, published in 2015. He is a professor of English and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California and has written two nonfiction books, Nothing Ever Dies, which was published in 2016, and Race and Resistance, which was published in 2002. Nguyen went on to publish a second book of fiction, a collection of short stories titled The Refugees, in 2017.
If you are looking to snuggle up with a good, thought-provoking book now that the temperature is beginning to drop and fall is finally kicking in, Professor La Londe would be quick to recommend this award-winning debut novel. Happy reading!