Diverting The Buddha is an ambitious novel that delivers through its vivid portrayal of the treachery and deceit that emerged during the catastrophic Vietnam War.
Bob Swartzel wastes little time in immersing his readers in a chaotic world where poor innocent people are caught between a corrupt Vietnamese leadership, as well as the self-interest of a few profiteers and an American foreign policy gone amok that seems bent on preventing a democratic movement from taking root.
A good part of the action is set in central Vietnam in the city of Hue near the border between North and South Vietnam. It was here in 1968 where the Battle of Hue in the Tet Offensive took place wherein the city suffered immense damage not only to its physical features that was a result of American firepower but also the butchery of many of its inhabitants committed by Communist forces.
Swartzel intertwines the lives of four fictional individuals, two Americans and two Vietnamese and through their eyes and actions readers vividly experience the dreadful occupation of Vietnam by the USA under the Vietnamese leadership of Premier Ky. It was also an era when Buddhists monks, along with student supporters, struggled to have free elections, as well as a democratic and peaceful nation in accordance with the Geneva Convention.
As mentioned in the narrative, most of the Vietnamese citizens never wanted a two-state solution. They trusted the words written during the Geneva Conference in the late 1950s that brought an end to the French War wherein the final document called for elections of reunion two years after the French left Vietnam.
Unfortunately, this was a goal that was never achieved due in part to the refusal of the South Vietnam leadership to hold general elections and an American foreign policy that prevented any democracy from breaking out until such time that they it would be able to control the outcome. As one of the students, Trinh Thrinh Hong, who is a reluctant heroine active in her student newspaper bluntly remarks: “The Americans all tell us not to worry about elections, not to worry when we are the generation doing the fighting and dying.”
Among the many achievements of this novel is Swartzel’s ability to provide his readers with a realistic sense of the historical setting the characters inhabit in the late 1960s. It also vividly captures the chaotic theater of war where we witness a gritty epoch of guns, politics, treachery and economic self-interest.
No doubt there are many novels pertaining to the Vietnam War, however, this one stands out as an unforgettable tale at its most emotional and painful with its multiple perspectives pertaining to the politics and history of Vietnam during the 1960s recounted in human terms.
The above review was contributed by: The Publisher & Editor of Bookpleasures.com, Norm Goldman, B.A. LL.L, Retired Title Attorney: Norm is also a travel writer and together with his artist wife, Lily, the couple meld Norm's words with Lily's art. To check out their travel site click on Sketchandtravel.comClick here to view Norm’s Reviews & Interviews.
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