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Jansson

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The Sympathizer

The Sympathizer - Viet Thanh Nguyen Actual rating 2.5.

I wanted to like this book. I wanted to be moved by it. But I wasn't. I'm so conflicted about the book. I can see why others have really enjoyed the book. It was interesting that much of the action happened outside of Vietnam. I also appreciated some of the writing & one of the meta themes of the book - empathy in war - was cleverly handled by Nguyen. I just never connected with the book & its characters, & reading it was hard work. It required a great deal of self-discipline. It was like having to eat a tablespoon of molasses - you know it's supposed to be good for you, it promises a modicum of sweetness, but it isn't, and it's unpleasantly thick. In this context, the lack of punctuation only compounded my dilemma.

I noticed that the blurb on the jacket talked about satire and humour. However there seems to be a mismatch between this description and the voice of the novel. There was plenty of bleak satire and some dark humour. But there isn't much lightness in the novel.

Was it a deserving winner of the Pulitzer Prize? Absolutely. Do I feel like my time was well spent reading it? I'm still in two minds about it.