Sunday, May 20, 2012
Dang Thuy Tram was a doctor who lived and worked in Vietnam during the war. She left her family, became a member of the communist party and worked to heal members of the Vietcong army. During the Vietnam war Thuy kept a diary and wrote down her thoughts, her emotions and the daily tribulations of living and working during a war. She relates some of the history of Vietnam, the conflict with the French and her wish for peace and freedom. Only one diary out of three survives.
Dr. Tram is shot and killed by the Americans. All of the deceased person's effects are ordered to be destroyed but one American soldier recognizes the dairy as important and keeps it. He takes it home after the war and keeps it safe for 35 years. The soldier returns to the diary to Dr. Tram's mother in Vietnam and she has it published where it becomes an instant bestseller.
Throughout the memoir there is death and destruction. Dr Tram faces death daily as people she loves are shot and captured and her patients die of incurable wounds. Her depression is evident as she misses her family and her high school sweetheart. Life happens during war and Thuy shows how she survives everyday when bombs are dropping around her.
I read this book aloud to my 4th hour Humanities class and most of them hated it. I tried to persevere hoping that they would learn something about the horrors of war and that the book would improve but it did not. Thuy constantly talkes about men and love interests and because she calls them all young brother or older brother it leaves the reader confused about who is who. Also Dr. Tram continually refers to herself in 3rd person which left the class wondering why. I was really disappointed in the book. I felt it needed something more, maybe some cultural references that helped the reader understand Vietnam better. There are tons of footnotes throughout the book that while they did explain some of the history, mostly deterred from the memoir and left the reader more confused. I would definitely say that this is a book where the meaning and importance of the book has become lost in translation.