cover image Romancing Vietnam

Romancing Vietnam

Justin Wintle. Pantheon Books, $25 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-40621-1

For three months in 1989-1990, British journalist Wintle traveled across Vietnam, getting to know Vietnamese from all walks in Hanoi, Hue, Danang, My Lai, Ho Chi Minh City and many lesser-known spots. His goal was ``to furnish an alternative to the received picture,'' which, for Americans, is top-heavy with Vietnam war memories and/or analysis. The most pleasant surprise about this entertaining and informative travel book is its almost exclusive emphasis on Vietnam today. Wintle was banqueted and speechified everywhere he went, and his stern efforts to behave correctly while keeping up with the toasts are hilarious. The heart and soul of Vietnam seem most eloquently revealed in accounts of relations with his official ``minders'' (all of whom worked hard to ``learn the art of keeping Mister Justin happy''). Wintle's unsentimental admiration shines through this buoyant account, one of the first books about Vietnam that doesn't present an unrelievedly solemn face to the reader. Photos. (Nov.)