THE REAL DRAGON

Louisa Hagner Trigg, Author THE REAL DRAGONLouisa Hagner $25.95 (512p) ISBN 978-1-56474-352-7
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As the U.S. moves into a new, amicable relationship with Vietnam, books such as this one are valuable in explaining the background to the 1960s war. First novelist Trigg lived in Saigon from 1959 to 1964, and she brings to this earnest, perceptive and often quite engaging tale a wealth of impressive atmospheric detail, as well as an intelligent understanding of culture and context. It's no mean trick to convey Vietnam's complex history, especially the events of the last 50 years, but Trigg does so well, in a story involving characters on all sides of the internecine battle. The narrative begins in 1960, on the eve of an abortive coup against the Diem government. To her credit, Trigg offers an evenhanded portrayal of the corruption and greed of the Diem regime (backed by the U.S.), as well as the ruthless methods of the Viet Minh (soon to become part of the Vietcong). Her characters include an American widow of a French planter murdered by the Viet Minh, and the two men who vie for her affections, one a by-the-books U.S. foreign service officer, the other an idealistic American medical missionary. An honest and ethical ARVN colonel and his dedicated wife represent the best of the Vietnamese people, and their opposite number, the coldblooded leader of a Communist terrorist cell, is in his own way equally devoted to his country. While the novel's pace is sometimes slowed by the interpolation of historical material and a smattering of Christian and Buddhist theology, it builds to a climactic account of a terrorist attack. Only Trigg's determination to show the possibilities of reconciliation as dramatized in a scene between the widow and the terrorist leader strikes a false note. An extensive bibliography attests to the book's assiduously researched background. Line drawings add local color. (Mar. 15)

Reviewed on: 02/19/2001
Release date: 03/01/2001
Genre: Fiction
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