Review of The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen

Posted by in netgalley copy

Let's read a book about having sex with a dead squid. Because that happens in this book. Somehow I have an ability to pick out books like this. I suppose it's a gift. Just something about me that makes me me.

(Squid sex is only like two pages of three hundred and fifty, but I feel it's one of those things that sort of encapsulates what type of book a book is.)

The Sympathizer is a long book that could have been about one hundred and fifty pages shorter. It's a book of contradictions, such as the narrator incensed about other people erasing his comrades' proper names, ignoring the fact that he doesn't give proper names to a bunch of people either. It's a book where you keep thinking there's going to be a flashback with an origin story, except that flashback never comes. There's a lot of adjectives and description and over-writing, those stylistic quirks that other people find charming or engrossing, but which I just get annoyed with. And I got annoyed.


There's some stuff that isn't so bad. I appreciate the narrator tells you right away he's a double-agent. None of this sudden-surprise-twist-ending nonsense that has become so popular. He's a double-agent, his one friend Man is a communist, and his other friend Bon, is not. This is where the one hundred and fifty pages of completely transparent criticism of Francis Ford Coppola and Apocalypse Now could be cut (What's the point of that sidetrack? Unnecessary. Lose it.) and replaced with something, even a sentence of why, of three close friends, one-third went to one ideology, while two-thirds went to another.

The book isn't free of some twists, although they are obvious so I don't know if one can call them that. I'll say reveals instead I suppose. There's a lot of what I call blah blah blah political discussions, as one might assume would happen at the locale in which they happen in the novel (trying to avoid spoilers I am).

I don't know. It took me forever to read this book. I feel bad saying anything negative about it since the author clearly worked hard. So I'll say nothing and laugh because nothing ends up being vital to the story: Nothing is less precious than a bad review.

The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen went on sale April 7, 2015.

I received a copy free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.