Customer Reviews for

Tree of Smoke

Average Rating 3.5
( 29 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(12)

4 Star

(7)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(2)

1 Star

(6)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

The Colonel, Skip, Bill, James, Trung, Hao, Fest, and Kathy

This novel is long, yes, but not so intricate that you have to keep puzzling out passages and piecing together connections. That's not to say that this is not an excellent novel or that it is not difficult. I just want all potential readers to know that this is a book...
This novel is long, yes, but not so intricate that you have to keep puzzling out passages and piecing together connections. That's not to say that this is not an excellent novel or that it is not difficult. I just want all potential readers to know that this is a book that will take hold of you and you will want to keep reading to the end. I read this novel in a week and I was completely taken into Johnson's storyworld. Coincidentally, I also read The Quiet American by Graham Greene this summer, just before picking up Tree of Smoke. I would recommend reading The Quiet American before Tree of Smoke, just to get a taste of the same themes and subjects that Denis Johnson tackles in his novel. All the major characters in Johnson's novel are worth reading about. Religion has a large place in this novel as well, just like in Greene's fiction, but I liked how religion was dealt with separately by all characters in different perspectives. For example, Trung thinks he remembers something Confucius supposedly said, 'I can't beat a sculpture from a stone with a sledgehammer I can't free the soul of a man by violence.' That's a memorable line that has stuck with me. There are also memorable parts of the novel where Carignan ruminates about Judas and readers witness Kathy's obsession with Calvin. These are all bits of the novel that remain with you long after you put the book down. That's the best endorsement I can give a novel. The time and attention you put into Johnson's work is paid back in full. You walk from his storyworld back into your life with a better understanding of yourself and the world around you. That's fiction's gift and Johnson has given us a gift as well.

posted by Anonymous on July 24, 2008

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Most Helpful Critical Review

1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

Difficult/Boring

First book I've purchased that I found difficult to get through & difficult to put down and pick back up.

posted by 2044019 on October 12, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2011

    Not going to read it...

    In the first chapter he kills a monkey, a tiny monkey that wasn't interested in harming him. The image will haunt me, I'll give him that.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2008

    no skin in the game - 600 pages of apathy

    I'm old enoough to remember the 20 years covered by this novel, and have seen lots of news reels, documentaries & films that cover the same span. This added nothing new, and seemed to keep the reader at arm's length from all the characters and actions. The novel refers to The Quiet American, by Graham Greene, which is so much its better. All the characters seemed not worth our caring from the beginning, and only went down from there. I'm not sure I learned anything about humanity, values, the history or place. And there wasn't really a plot or mystery or eventual disclosure to serve as a payoff for this collection of characters. There is a fair amount of dialogue & plot connection to a supposed 'Labyrinth' scheme by the Colonel, sometimes called the Tree of Smoke, and a Vietnamese double agent, but I was never able to tell what any of it was supposed to accomplish. Graham Greene & John Le Carre have written about this time and place and types of characters with so much more skill and heart. Read them instead. What was the point, just to show the reader that the war itself had no point? I wish the author had done so in fewer than 600 pages. This novel makes me seriously question the judgment of the National Book Award.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2010

    Worst book I've read in 20-some years.

    I read this book, start to finish, hoping that it would eventually become interesting, exciting, etc. All I felt when I read the last word was disappointment. What a waste of time. I'd really be upset, but I found it on the sale rack for $5. Even at $5, it wasn't worth it.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2009

    I couldn't get into it at all

    I had to put it down, it did not interest me at all after the first 150 pages

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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