The strong female lead character propels the story for me
Guest Review by Judy George
I started reading “Escape from Saigon” on a Friday and couldn’t put it down until I finished it on Sunday.
As a woman who broke into the male-dominated business world during the Vietnam War, I felt the novel created the perfect archetype of the women’s
liberation pioneers with female protagonist Lisette Vo. Lisette is the first female correspondent to become the face of a major US TV network in what became known as, “America’s television war.” She also happens to be a Vietnamese-American, who like many Americans came to Vietnam early on.
She is the daughter of a prominent Washington D.C. family of Vietnamese and French heritage, who graduated from Georgetown University in the 60’s and flew to Saigon with no job, but a desire to get at the truth about a distant war that would define our generation. Lisette is smart, tough, knows Vietnamese politics inside-and-out and is accomplished. She also confronts her own struggles and vulnerability throughout the novel, and hints at the future of women in media and the advent of 24/7 cable news in the epilogue.
This story a must for anyone, especially millennials and twenty-somethings, who want to better understand their parents and grandparents and how the decision to “go to war” shapes the lives of ordinary people. While much of the tension is between Lisette, a rising TV talent, and her friend Sam Esposito of The Washington Legend, the novel gives the reader a feel for life in the French colonial city of Saigon, now Ho Chi Minh City. There is a French expatriate bar owner who runs the unofficial watering hole for the press corps, a just-married Vietnamese couple who work for the Americans and fears reprisals, and a GI who returns to rescue his Vietnamese family before enemy tanks roll into the city. There are also diplomats, CIA agents, spies, and countless Vietnamese seeking to escape the desperation of war and decades of misguided decisions by their political leaders.
While the action takes place during the final 30 days of the war, the authors weave historical references through flashbacks and recollections. I not only got a better sense for how it all ended on April 30 of 1975, but also for the decades that led up to a war that dragged on for a quarter of a century and ended with barely a whimper. This a superb novel in which the history is accurately recounted, but does not intrude on the compelling story.
I’m looking forward to reading more about Lisette Vo in the next novel.
Judy George founded Domain Home, a 35-store furniture retailing chain in the 1980s and is the author of “The Intuitive Businesswoman." She lectures on women’s empowerment and is featured on the cover of this summer’s Grand Magazine. Escape from Saigon is available on Amazon and at independent bookstores.