Posts tagged ‘thelotuseaters’

March 27th, 2010

The Lotus Eaters by Tatjana Soli; Review

by Madeleine Rex

Title: The Lotus Eaters

Author: Tatjana Soli

Published: March 30, 2010 by St. Martin’s Press

Number of Pages: 400

Rating: 3/5

Review Sent to St. Martin’s Press*:

The Lotus Eaters is an astounding accomplishment. In her bare, unmerciful prose, Tatjana Soli reincarnates the Vietnam War before us, warm, sticky, and smelling of both the stench of dead soldiers and the street vendors’ soup. Readers will find themselves equally enthralled in wartime as the characters, obsessed with it, unable to wrench themselves from the pages, no matter how gruesome the truth of the words is. The Lotus Eaters is a novel that candidly tells us that it must be read. It will not be set down. Within it is a story that must be told.


My feelings for this book shall forever remain hazy, I’m afraid. I have relatively no idea where this book stands in my mind. I wavered between a 3/5 and a 4/5 rating for a long time, and even once considered 2/5, I think. It was all so very contradictory and altogether confusing.

In the long run, however, I think 3/5 was an accurate rating. I’m sure many would rate it higher simply because my main reason for knocking the rating down one was that the book was more sexually and verbally immoral than I prefer. It made me feel uncomfortable at times, which automatically lowered my esteem for it and my regard. I want to feel cozy with a book and snuggle up close to it. I want it to make me feel warm. At times, this book made me shiver with apprehension and, occasionally, disgust.

On a happier note: the book was pretty dang brilliant. Tatjana Soli’s style was a bit shaky and confusing at first, but it began to feel so natural. This was one of the most sensational books I have read: literally. I could see and smell and feel everything. This book is top notch at making the words and page disappear and leaving you alone with the story. I absolutely loved the blunt descriptions of both the beautiful and the totally revolting. This book’s descriptions are delicious.

The story itself was fascinating. The way the war affects the main characters is something I won’t even attempt to describe. I can’t fathom how Soli did it so well. Needless to say, my synopsis of this book will have to be brief.

Helen goes to Vietnam, nearly on a whim, and becomes one of the first woman photojournalists of the war. There she meets various people, falls in love with various men, and witnesses various atrocities. It’s all quite fascinating and intriguing. You’ll be caught up in it from the get-go…

And yet I stopped reading halfway through and took a 20+ day break. I have a reason for this: I couldn’t focus on the book. I’ve been going on and on about how riveting it all was, yet there were fifty-some pages in the middle that ensnared me. In the end, I do believe that the second half was more tantalizing than the first. The break did me good, though, and I couldn’t put the book down once I’d picked it back up.

I had never known much about the Vietnam War. My mom wasn’t even born when it began. It’s not as infamous as the World Wars, and consequently, not as often spoken of. However, as usually is the case with me, I find that I am now far more interested in it, having lived bits of it through a character. Tatjana Soli does a magnificent job of showing us the war as it was, not romanticizing it or fluffing facts.

Unarguably, the strong points are the descriptions of the obsession in regard to the picture-taking. The entire mind-set of the photojournalists was alien to me and mighty interesting. Many things were stated that I had never even considered. Thoughts that had never entered my head now wriggled their way into it. This book gives you a mound of things to think about, some minor and some deep.

Overall, I did not enjoy the vulgarities of certain parts and those fogged up my view. Others might be able to see right past them, but I am not one of those people. On the other hand, I loved the descriptions. In this area, I believe Tatjana Soli has a fabulous and evident gift. It’s undeniable that she is a master of words. She twists them and creates art.

Just imagine.

Or don’t, and simply read the book.

I will warn all those that are “clean-freaks” like me: You’ll be disturbed by parts. Skip ’em. That’s what I do, and I survive. However, this book was on the verge of being set down and left for, say, ten years.

All the same, I can honestly say that many, many people will find this book to be phenomenal.

*Thanks for the ARC!

March 8th, 2010

Dear Writers, Respect YA

by Madeleine Rex

I recently wrote a guest post for Steph Bowe’s blog, Hey! Teenager of the Year. I thought I’d cross-post it so that the folks who haven’t seen it yet can take a peek. I decided to write primarily on two topics: the Young Adult genre and the necessity of characters.

Young Adult fiction has become a dominant force, invading the shelves of people of every age. An enormous amount of space at my local Borders has been turned into a sort of YA theme park. School libraries are streaming with kids, some of whom have been readers since they were munchkins and some on whom it’s suddenly dawned “Hey! I like reading this stuff! Who would’ve thunk it?” Whatever their story may be, they head for the YA shelves like bees to a particularly nectar-filled blossom. It appears YA is at its prime.

There’s a catch, though. A con to all these pros. There are authors lurking in the shadows who write these books because they know (just like everyone else) that YA is “hot.” If you’re going to write YA, you have to respect it; work with the genre as you’d collaborate with a valued coworker. After all, who wants to work with someone who doesn’t respect them? It’s imperative that the YA authors of the day have a respect and an evident, underlying love for their genre.

So what makes YA novels beautiful in your eyes? What are you looking for?

I look for a combination of things, little details and intricacies that really make the book real. Foremost, though, I seek out compelling characters. Just as the world would be nothing but stray breezes and raindrops without people and animals, books are lonely wildernesses of words, cold and unfeeling, without characters. Beneath the action and excitement of the plot, the characters breathe miraculous life into the story. Life so miraculous that when a late night reader wrenches herself from the end of a chapter, her weary eyes screaming “you really must stop”, she goes to sleep restless and unsatisfied. Unconscious, her fingers twitch toward her bedside table where the book lies watching her, laughing silently as she struggles. You may think that it’s the blasted cliff-hanger of a chapter ending that holds the mind suspended in mid-air, but deep down you know it’s not. You wouldn’t care what happened to a napkin if it were being yanked down a river by strong currents as its friend blew alongside, up on the riverbank. No. You care about what the heck is going to happen to the character- Will they die? Will they end up in the sewer? Oh, good gosh, can they swim?!?

For the Young Adult writers out there, it’s incredibly important not to take character development lightly. Look upon your love of reading YA for guidance. Never quit reading; it’s the simplest and most enjoyable way to remind yourself why you’re spending hours slouched over a laptop, the bright screen withering your eyeballs. As you read, you’ll remember why you love the Young Adult genre, and why you particularly love those young adults on your own list of main characters.

These troubled younglings are so much more than names printed in typeset “Book Antiqua.” The lives of these characters (made all the more appealing by their rollercoaster, adolescent emotions) hold infinite possibilities for storytelling. It’s these characters that we need to focus on as writers. They make the story. We read for them. And we need to write for them, too.

Madeleine Rex (age 14) is an obsessive reader and writer. She blogs at Wordbird.
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I’d love to hear any comments on the post above… And, yes, I have finally disclosed my age. I am fourteen years old. ( :
On the book-blogger side, I intend to write a review for The Lotus Eaters very soon, as well as a review of The Postmistress. I’ve been surprisingly busy and out-and-about for the past week and haven’t had much time for writing, let alone blogging. I’m also in the process of mulling over a Review Policy. Busy! Busy! Busy!
Good luck to all with either their reading, writing, or both. Depends on how far you want to push your creative boundaries!
P.S. I can’t get the paragraphs to format correctly. Sorry!