24 December 2014

Review #110: The Trader of Saigon by Lucy Cruickshanks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Saigon was an addicted city, and we were the drug: the corruption of children, the mutilation of young men, the prostitution of women, the humiliation of the old, the division of the family, the division of the country--it had all been done in our name. . . . The French city . . . had represented the opium stage of the addiction. With the Americans had begun the heroin phase.
----James Martin Fenton FRSL FRSA an English poet, journalist and literary critic

Lucy Cruickshanks, an English author, enthralled us with her debut novel, The Trader of Saigon set across the exotic yet victimized land of Vietnam. This is a story of three lives entwined together by a unfortunate knot, untwisting which might leave them paralyzed for the rest of their lives.

As a US Army deserter, Alexander is a man without country; stuck in a life he no longer controls and embroiled in the dark business of trading women. His latest victim is Hanh, a poor rural girl living in Hanoi who dreams of escaping the inevitability of an impoverished future and for whom Alexander’s arrival seems like the answer to a prayer. Neither of them has ever met Phuc - a Vietnamese businessman who backed the wrong side in the war and is now unable to pay his financial and political debts to the Party. But his struggles are about to change both their lives.

Alexander is an ex-US Army deserter, stuck in his new home away from his own, with his alter ego, trading women as brides for their better future. Hanh, a 15-year old Vietnamese girl, is a squat girl trying to feed both her mother as well as hers own empty stomachs with her minimal wage. Phuc, a Vietnamese fisherman is trying hard to keep his family afloat in the mane of food, money, status in their society, in the same time trying his level best to keep his name away from all political puddles. However, these three lives come and crash together, resulting in devastating after-effects, thus leaving us with a heart touching as well as an engaging story.

For a first time author, Lucy's prose is splendid and she wrote the whole story with great vividness. Even her narrative style is simple and crisp, thus making it an easy ride for us. Some might think the plot as very simple, and yes indeed, it is, there is not much twist or any thought-provoking events, but the way she created the whole plot with her eloquent words completely captured my mind.

Her characterization is quite strong, and every character reflected themselves in this story with their inner depth thus making a lasting impression upon our minds. The author even portrayed the supporting characters like Hanh's mother, uncle, best-friend-cum-sister, Alexander's boss and Phuc's family members, quite brilliantly. Hanh and Alexander's budding relationship depicted in the story was very promising and Lucy portrayed it with passion and mystery that will leave you feeling like you are just holding in your breath for something big to happen between them.

The setting and the time-period that the author captured was very alive and vivid. The imagery that the author used in her tale is visual. The picture of Hanoi in Saigon is bright yet darkness lurked in the hidden alleys of the town. The wretched and destructed situation of post-Civil war period in Vietnam is quite arresting. The author intricately laid out the descriptions about Hanh's misery and Alexander's painful past and present, quite remarkable, thus leaving us spellbound with the emotional torments. The author took us back in the moment when US Army troops ruled the poor, dingy streets of Saigon, thus obstructing the natural beauty of Vietnam. While reading this book, I teleported myself back in that era and watched the whole story being unfolded right in front of my eyes.

Moreover, Vietnam is such an unexplored land in the terms of stories and novels, especially the period when America lost their shame and name in the Vietnam War, so thanks to the author for letting us see the real picture of Vietnam, when hunger, trafficking and murder were the sole medium of sustenance.

Verdict: An engrossing debut literary novel which you can't miss!

Courtesy: Many, many thanks to the author, Lucy Cruickshanks, for giving me an opportunity to read and review her debut novel. 

Author Info:
Lucy Cruickshanks was born in 1984 and raised in Cornwall. She holds a BA in Politics and Philosophy from the University of Warwick and an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University. She has traveled widely in Asia.
The Trader of Saigon is her debut novel and was published by Heron Books, an imprint of Quercus, on 4th July 2013. The story was inspired by a chance meeting on a flight between Singapore and Vietnam, in which she sat next to a man who presented his business card, and casually told her how he made his fortune selling women.
She is currently working on her second novel - a thriller about the ruby trade in 1980s Myanmar, due for release in February 2015.
Visit her here

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  1. Thank you so much for reviewing my novel, Aditi, and for taking the time to write such thoughtful feedback. I'm thrilled you enjoyed the story and the characters, and greatly appreciate you taking the time to let me and your own readers know. Support from bloggers makes a tremendous difference to authors who are at the beginning of their careers, so it’s wonderful to see you sharing your thoughts.

    If any of your audience would like to know about my second novel, set in 1980s Burma and due for release in September 2015, details will be posted on my Facebook page, Twitter and website very shortly.

    Facebook: www.facebook.com/L.J.Cruickshanks
    Twitter: @LJCruickshanks
    Website: www.lucycruickshanks.com

    Many thanks again and best wishes,
    Lucy Cruickshanks

  2. It was my pleasure and honor! And I'm really glad that you liked it! :-) And thanks for all your info, that's really kind of you :-)

    Have a great year:-)


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