The Sympathizer – Viet Thanh Nguyen – Audible Book Review
Narrated by: Francois Chau – Length: 13 hrs and 53 mins
The Sympathizer takes the form of a confession from a prison cell. We don’t know what the prisoner is in jail for or who his captors are. We hear the confession and wonder about the circumstances in which it is written. The confession tells the story of a North Vietnamese double agent in the South Vietnamese army. We follow our nameless protagonist, known only as the Captain, from his early life during the war in Vietnam to his hasty departure and then his arrival in the United States. The book deals with many aspects of his life and ultimately shows the impact of the war on the people of Vietnam, both those who stayed and those who left as refugees.
The book was written by Professor Viet Thanh Nguyen in 2015 and went on to win the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction along with a multitude of other awards. Viet is a Vietnamese-American novelist who was born in 1971 and currently teaches in the University of Southern California. He is also a regular columnist for The New York Times.
The actor reading the work is Francois Chau, who has had small parts in a multitude of American TV shows, such as Lost, The Expanse and The X-Files. He is the perfect choice for the part and captures the intensity of the work.
The book is fast-paced and covers a lot of ground, with our protagonist even working on a movie set for a film based on the Vietnam war. This allows the writer to delve into how America rewrites history through their films and change the narrative away from what was recorded in the history books. The ending of the book focuses on the mind of the captain and is a substantial change in direction from what has gone before. It becomes quite introspective and doesn’t fit with the earlier sections. The majority of the novel is a fascinating and wide-ranging account of the Captain’s life in the army in Vietnam, to a small apartment in California and beyond. The writer is currently working on a sequel to the novel, called The Committed, which should hit the shelves later this year.