The Man From Saigon: A Novel

The Man From Saigon: A Novel

by Marti Leimbach

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Overview

It’s 1967, and Susan Gifford is one of the first women correspondents in Saigon, dedicated to her job and passionately in love with an American TV reporter. Son is a Vietnamese photographer anxious to get his work to the American press. Together they cover every aspect of the war from combat missions to the workings of field hospitals. Then one November morning, after narrowly escaping death, Susan and Son find themselves the prisoners of three Vietcong soldiers. Helpless in the hands of the enemy, they face the jungle, living always with the threat of being killed and the slow realization that their complicated relationship is the only thing sustaining them both.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385529877
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/23/2010
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 368
File size: 3 MB

About the Author

Marti Leimbach is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller Dying Young, which was made into a major motion picture starring Julia Roberts. Born in Washington, D.C., Leimbach attended the Creative Writing program at University of California, Irvine, and Harvard University. She currently lives in England and teaches at the University of Oxford’s Creative Writing program.

Read an Excerpt

The first shots came as they were flying northeast toward Danang. Over the terrific noise of the engine and rotors, she could hear a pinging sound, something like coins being lobbed against the metal where she was sitting. It wasn't particularly loud anddidn't sound remarkable or worrying. For many minutes she sat stiffly in the nylon seat of the helicopter, the wind rifling across her trouser legs, sending her field jacket back so that she could feel a button pushing against her neck, being aware of manythings, but not of the pinging sound, the bullets directed at her, at all of them, as they spun above a canopy of jungle.   She had much to distract her from the pinging: the roar of the engine as the chopper skimmed over the tops of trees, the throbbing of the rotors, the explosions of fire from the door gunners, the effort she made to keep from being sick. It was awhile beforeshe even thought about it. She only registered the gravity of the sound because she felt a force behind her, a sudden pushing in of metal as though a fist had pressed the fuselage of the chopper inward, feeling mildly uncomfortable and new. The place wherethe metal had bent was low on her back, just above her belt. Had the bullet passed through the side of the chopper, it would have found a home in her right kidney. When she reached back to check that it was not her imagination, that there really was a small,convex lump behind her, she felt the hot metal at the same time as a rising panic, a kind of insistence from inside her that she respond to the assault, as involuntary as a sneeze.   It may have been that her body knew even before she clocked it in her mind that they were being shot at, that they were being hit. When she realized the sound she'd been hearing was of bullets meeting the skin of the chopper, she found she had to controlherself as she might a bucking horse, staying focused, intent, sitting out the ride as the chopper dipped and swerved, as the pinging sound seemed to dissolve all others, so that it felt to her that the volume had been turned down, that the whole of the earthwas silent, except for this one noise. She felt a kind of last-minute, hopeless panic, her life opening before her. Not her life passing year to year in a flash as it is said to do at such moments, nothing like that. Only where she was, and that she'd had achoice some time back, not now, and that she'd made the wrong choice. It was a feeling of being trapped and desperate, of having been cornered by her own mistakes.   She did not look at her colleague, her friend, Son. She knew he did not like being so close to American marines, that he did not like this particular route into Danang, flying over the jungle. There were always VC there, cloaked by the jungle's thick canopy,willing to take a few quick shots in case they got lucky. Son had warned her, but she did not take it in. Now she could not bring herself to look at him. Nor did she watch the door gunners or turn to see the pilot. In fact, she could not see properly; everynerve seemed to focus inward at the terror brewing inside her.   If she'd had the presence of mind, she'd not have blamed the enemy, nor the pilot, nor command operations, not even the war itself for what was happening, for what more might happen. She would have cast the blame on her own poor judgment for getting onthe chopper in the first place. For every small, seemingly inconsequential decision that had led her here, to this place, right now. Under fire, she found it hard to breathe or swallow or make a noise. More than anything, she wanted to run, which was of coursenot possible, and the fact that she could not run, that she was caged and airborne and entirely at the mercy of whatever would happen next, was almost unbearable.   She wrapped her hands over her head, over her eyes. She stared down at the floor and watched as a bullet made a mark there, a little rise of hot aluminum not far from her foot, and she wished she'd followed the advice she'd read about traveling by helicopterin Vietnam, which was not only to wear a flak jacket but to sit on one as well.   And then the pinging stopped. She waited for it to begin again, but there was no sound. She heard the chaos of voices and gunfire, wind and rotors, loud and relentless, hammering at her skull, but the pinging was gone. She felt something inside her shiftand she was able finally to look up, scanning the faces of the others. She looked at Son. His black hair stood straight up, a result of sweat and wind. He tried to smile but his mouth was dry and taut so that all he managed to do was squint and meet her eyeswith his reassuring gaze. One of the gunners was intent on unjamming his gun, the other so pale she thought for a moment that he would faint and fall out of the open door. His shirt was wet, as though someone had poured a bucket of water across his chest, andshe watched as the wind dried it little by little, all signs of the terror of the last few minutes quietly disappearing.   Someone began to laugh. The pilot whooped and the gunner with the jammed M60 suddenly opened fire at no particular target. They had flown through it; they had won this moment. It wasn't long before they could see the sands stretching eastward toward theSouth China Sea, the chopper landing safely in Danang. They trotted out, inspecting the fuselage for dings, for all those little holes that meant bullets. She walked around the helicopter, finding the area outside where she'd been sitting, looking up at thedented metal, the pocket where she'd felt the heat, the sharp splinters of metal beginning to fracture. The others were pointing to more serious breaks in the chopper, but she stared only at that one place where the bullet hadn't quite broken through. Nothinghad come of it. She would tell herself this thin truth for many days: while in the shower at the press center, while standing in line at the USO for burgers, while drifting off in thought when she was supposed to be interviewing someone, she would insist thatnothing had happened. The bullet had fallen back through the sky; the chopper had touched down like a giant trembling bird; everything ended the way it ought to have, with them safely on the ground, the heat gathering around them as the rotors slowed. It wasa July afternoon and the air was still.   Shall I take a photograph? Son asked her, nodding up at the chopper, at the scar in the metal that held her attention. It seemed so innocuous now, the bullet hole, like the head of a lion mounted on a wall.   She told him no, the words coming out quickly, perhaps a little too loudly, as though he'd asked for something inappropriate and personal. Then she said, I didn't mean to sound like that. Take the picture. Go ahead.   He brought the camera to his eye, framed the photograph, adjusted the focus, and released the shutter. They walked together across the airfield with their packs and cameras, and she suddenly ran forward and was sick on the dirt by the fence line. Son waited,then carried her pack for her.   You might one day want it, he said. That picture.   She was wrung out of emotions. She felt places in her body that were like bruises, the result of clenched muscles. She shook her head and wondered why anyone would want that photograph. Why would they keep such a thing? But she did want it, not then butmany months later when she was packing for home. It was among the few mementos she took with her.     A month earlier, in Saigon, a guy had given her a mimeographed pamphlet written by another reporter, the pages stapled together, corners curled, the title stamped across the front in capital letters: Handbook for Newsmen in Vietnam. It was written duringthe years when the war was still young, a small affair with none of the sense of increasing disaster that hung about it now. Its author mixed practical advice with his own idiosyncratic observations about the locals, warning reporters never to travel withoutID papers, for example, and that the Vietnamese will always tell you what they think you want to hear. Nobody spoke much about the handbook; everybody read it and pretended they had not. In fact, the reporter she borrowed it from made a point of saying he didnot want it returned.   They were in a bar, a group of other reporters around them, enjoying the air-conditioning and the darkness that contrasted with the extreme light outside. She had arrived exhausted into Tan Son Nhut airport sixteen hours earlier, the plane diving towardthe landing strip as though it meant to bury itself there. She'd never been to Asia, or covered a war. Now she found herself in a bar that might as well have been in New York or Chicago. She didn't know what to expect. She felt a little disoriented. The chatterof the reporters confused her; she couldn't even figure out what they were talking about--this infantry, that unit. Drinking did not help, but she certainly was not going to sit in the bar surrounded by men drinking Scotch and order a ginger ale. The reporterwho asked her to meet him said he had something for her, and that something turned out to be a copy of the handbook. He gave it to her along with his business card, his home number handwritten on the reverse side.   Let me know when you get back, he said. I'd like to hear how it went. He was maybe a dozen years older than her, the beginnings of gray in his hair made his head appear to shine. He looked as though he felt a little sorry for her. He regarded her as onemight a younger sister, even a child.   She smiled. You don't think I'll last two weeks, do you?   He was taken aback, though he tried not to show it. I didn't say that. Anyway, it depends on where you go.   She laid the handbook on the table next to their drinks. So where did you go? she asked.   He brushed the question aside. You'll notice how slim it is, the handbook. That's because you really can't tell people what they need to know. But read it anyway. Definitely read it.   He smiled. He explained that he was leaving for New York the following day and all he could offer by way of good advice was for her to go home now. Or at least soon. It's hard enough for a man, he said. Though being a woman will have one advantage. You'llbe the first on at the airstrip, that's for sure.   She nodded. She didn't know exactly what he meant and yet she felt to admit this would embarrass them both, so she filed the words away in her head: first on at the airstrip.   The drink came to an end. The man smiled and then looked right at her for a single, long minute as though trying to memorize her face.   I'll be fine, she said. It was odd that he should be so concerned. It made her nervous--not about him but about where she was, what she was doing. These were the earliest hours of the earliest days, long before bullets or chopper rides, before anythingat all. She said she'd be fine but she had no way of knowing if this would be the case. She hadn't really thought there could be any other outcome, until now.   He took a deep breath. You're awfully young, he said, or maybe it's me. I've gotten old here. He finished his drink in one swallow. Then he stood, shook his head as though to push away a thought, and flicked his ash into his empty glass. She extended herhand to shake his, and he took her fingers, drawing her forward and planting a soft kiss on her forehead. He nodded slowly, then turned away, holding a hand up at his shoulder as he went. He left the handbook on the table for her as one might an old magazine,disregarding entirely the warning in the pamphlet's introduction that the contents were confidential.     She read that she must bring a canteen, poncho, zinc oxide, a hat, malaria pills. Never to go out with any unit smaller than a company. Bring pencils as well as pens because pens dried up in the heat and pencils broke or needed sharpening. Halazone, iodine,chlorine. She was told by those around her to be careful; some even recommended that she not leave the ever-tightening boundary of the city. In the hotel's narrow bed, she passed her first sleepless jet-lagged nights with the handbook across her knees, scanninga flashlight across the words on each mimeographed page. In the middle of the night, just upon falling asleep, she would suddenly jerk awake, asking herself frankly how on earth anyone thought she could do the job of a foreign correspondent, a war correspondent,because she was quite sure she could not. She told herself it was normal to feel this way, that everybody must have their doubts. Then she doubted that, too.   She discovered it was hard to function in Saigon. The electricity didn't always work. The water came out rusty from the taps. She drew herself maps, wrestled with the foreign money, drenched her clothes in sweat trying to get used to a climate that seemedfrom another planet entirely. One day she saw schoolchildren file past a dog that had died outside the school gates. The children walked over the stiffened legs or hopped above the bloated body. One of the boys got a stick and hit the dog's ribs as though itwas a pinata that had failed to burst open its sweets. A few others stood around, watching. Then another kicked the dead body. She went back the next day and the dog was still there, most of it.   She had plenty of time to read the handbook because she found it impossible to sleep. The traffic was like some background record that kept repeating itself: screeching tires, honking horns, exhausts backfiring, and engines that moaned and spluttered underthe slow poison of inappropriate fuel. That ended shortly after curfew at eleven, but then there was all the noise from the assortment of odd guests at the hotel where she stayed. Some nights they arrived drunk from clubs, speaking at the tops of their voices,playing music, or kicking a soccer ball down the halls. Fights broke out between the drunken ones and those who had regular jobs that required early rising. It was not unusual to hear an argument conducted in three different languages, and once in a while itgot physical.

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Man from Saigon 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
tututhefirst on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not really sure how to review this book. It's a novel, purportedly a love story? It's set in Vietnam at the height of the Vietnam war and is written by an author who has never been to vietnam, even after the war. She indicates that all her setting, and resources are others' writings about their experiences. I guess for fiction it's ok, but I couldn't buy the premise, and I felt she took a story that could have been written in 150-200 pages, and stretched it to 300. I found my eyes glazing over often. TThe story is about the experiences of a female reporter who is sent to Vietnam to produce women's interest stories. Having read non-fiction books by several of the actual female reporters who did go to Vietnam, I had a hard time believing or relating to this one.
juli1357 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is quite simply the worst book I've read about Vietnam. The author has never been to Vietnam and clearly did very little research on the subject. The title is misleading because the man referred to is not from Saigon, something that is alluded to early on in the book. Readers expecting to learn anything about Saigon, or even Vietnam in general, will be sorely disappointed because most of the action takes place in the jungle, following the capture of American journalist Susan Gifford and her Vietnamese photographer/translator Son by three North Vietnamese soldiers. And with the exception of them occasionally coming across a deserted hamlet or learning that the way the Vietcong manage to avoid stepping on land mines is by leaving coded messages for each other (i.e. tying grass a certain way, leaving a broken branch on a path etc.), it might have been any jungle. To make matters worse, the story is told in third person narrative which has the effect of distancing the reader even further from a story that isn't terribly engaging to begin with. The book is touted as a love story, but it fails short even on that level. You could pick up pretty much any other book about Vietnam and end up feeling much more satisfied that you will if you choose to read this one. Enough said.
amusedbybooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The story was interesting and different from other Vietnam books I've read, however few and far between those might be. Susan is a young woman who is a journalist sent from a woman's magizine to cover the war. I found this mildly far fetched but I wasn't alive then so what do I know. However, Glamour and Marie Claire don't have someone full time reporting from Afghanistan or Iraq on 'women's interests' in wartime they just do some op-ed's from time to time so maybe I'm not completely off base here. At any rate that's why Susan is there so just go with it. Susan was pretty easy for me to relate to which I liked. She didn't know what to expect and when she got to Saigon she was kind of overwhelmed at first which is a very honest portrayal I think. Growing up in America couldn't prepare you for that. She was thrown into all kinds of situations before being captured by the Viet Cong (I didn't just give anything away there that they don't tell you on the back of the book). She was doing pretty well with her writing and had even started a love affair with another man before all this went down in the jungle. Unfortunately for her the unthinkable happens and she is captured.You learn how strong Susan is and what the human body is able to endure. There is also some mystery and intrigue, while back in Saigon Susan's boyfriend is trying to figure out how to rescue her. Overall, while the story was told from a different standpoint than most Vietnam War novels, I do think that it was slow for me, and I found my mind wandering while reading it. It didn't grab me like I thought it would.
TimBazzett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was just too darn long, by at least a hundred pages. That said, I do think Marti Leimbach is a wonderful writer. Her characters are well drawn and fully fleshed out, particularly the two Americans, Susan Gifford and Marc Davis. The character who remains something of an enigma is the title character, Son, who is, presumably, a North Vietnamese spy working under cover as a press photographer. I'm not sure he really works as a character, simply because Leimbach is unable to ever get inside his skin and mind the way she does with her American journalists. Because of this, the ending lacks resolution. But the biggest problem with the book was its length. Perhaps one of Leimbach's biggest strengths in this book is the way she is able to evoke an atmosphere, a setting, an ambience. She makes you feel the ooze, hear the noise, smell the smells and the stench of both the jungle and the teeming streets of Saigon and the other Vietnam locales visited in the story. It is just about as real as it gets. The trouble is she keeps on doing this to death until you just want to scream, "OKAY! I GET IT! GET ON WITH THE STORY ALREADY!" The story itself is pretty straightforward. The girl reporter gets captured by the Vietcong and endures untold (well, actually told and toLD and TOLD) hardships, but is kinda looked after by Son, who is captured with her and who, she begins to realize, is not who she thought he was. The boy reporter (who is married) worries about her and tries to search for her, feeling vaguely guilty about his pregnant wife back in the states. And the wife situation is worked out in just a bit too pat a manner, if you ask me - a deus ex machina that simply isn't very believable. I'm not sure I could spoil this book, because there's not much to spoil. I recognized a good writer in Leimbach, but I was constantly frustrated by the way the plot dragged and the way the atmosphere was simply done to death. The storyline was just too simple and too thin to sustain itself for over 300 pages. A perceptive editor should have seen this. Maybe this story was just not right for Leimbach. I still think I might take a look at her previous novel, Daniel Isn't Talking. I'll bet it's a lot better than this one.
afyfe on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Looking back on this book, I enjoyed it, however there were points in the middle that were hard to get through. The overall story was great and came together very well at the end. I really didn¿t understand all the focus on the character Marc, I never really liked him and was very bored by his story. Anytime the author switched back to him I almost just wanted to skip ahead to the next time Susan and Son appeared. I also thought it was weird that he didn¿t come back into the story with Susan at the end, so why put all that focus on him? I really enjoyed everything that happened with Susan and Son when they got captured and the development of their three captors. I also got a little confused at times whether they were in the present time or reflecting on something in the past. Again, I really enjoyed the current storyline but all the flashbacks tended to get boring. Lastly, I wasn¿t a big fan of the fact that it was written in the third person, it didn¿t seem to fit right. I¿d recommend this book to someone interested in the Vietnam war and willing to trudge through some boring parts to find a very good overall storyline.
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Thanks, LT ER!The Man From Saigon is a work of historical fiction, set in 1967 during the Vietnam War just prior to the Tet Offensive. Susan Gifford is a reporter who writes for a woman's magazine and is sent to Saigon to write about things of interest to women. She realizes, however, that the real action is not in Saigon, but out in the field, and off she goes. On her first foray in country, she meets Marc, another reporter, with whom she eventually falls in love. She also takes with her on her periodic jaunts into the jungle a Vietnamese reporter named Son. It is on one trip to do a story on a refugee camp in the Delta that the soldiers with whom she is traveling are ambushed. She and Son are soon separated from the protection of the Army, but are quickly taken prisoner by three North Vietnamese soldiers looking for their own unit. Of course, this brief summary doesn't even begin to cover this story, but I don't want to give away the show for others who may wish to read the book. What I liked most about this book is how the author is able to zoom in on some of the inherent ambiguities and contradictions of war, and of those caught up in it, at least the slice of it which she reveals here. As an example, the "truth" that was coming out of Vietnam from reporters was often suppressed, filtered or changed, as we know now, and as the author shows so well, and depended heavily on what those in charge of the war wanted everyone to know back home. Marc and his cameraman Locke ran into this censorship and official US doublespeak issue several times throughout the story. The author also touches on the treatment of the native Vietnamese who were evacuated by the Army from their homes, whom the army called "victims of the Vietcong." (181) People in the camps had seen their houses torched, their food supplies ruined, normal life disrupted, all by the US Army and the ARVN forces when there wasn't even a battle going on. Then there's the moral ambiguity of it all, exemplified especially in the case of the main character, Susan, who comes to understand what's really happening while she's out there in the jungle and has time to reflect on her time and experiences in Vietnam, and perhaps even in Son to some extent (but, well, there's fruit for discussion). There are more examples as well. The Man From Saigon is overall, a good reading experience. The characters, for the most part, were well drawn, and the sense of place was so realistically portrayed that you could almost feel the intense heat from the time to time. However, I thought the author overdid it in terms of Susan's day-to-day slog through the jungle, the progress of her foot injuries, and the abundance of detail about the rats and insects that were cooked and eaten while she was a prisoner. At times the plotline moved very slowly. Had the story been a little bit tighter, it would have been excellent. But I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in reading about Vietnam, or about women's roles in Vietnam during the war. Ms. Leimbach has done a great deal of research here, and it's paid off.
IsolaBlue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Leimbach gives us suspense, terror, fear, discomfort, revulsion, intrigue, romance, insight, emotion, and warfare with no Hollywood props. The Man from Saigon reads far more like pure literature than popular thriller. Its audience, therefore, will be those who prefer slower paced observations and internal thought. This is not a book for lovers of fast-paced, heart-beating, page turning, soon-to-be-turned-into-a-movie type of read. Leimbach's characters, their thoughts, actions, and story come to us as if in a dream. Her interesting sense of pacing the narrative is intriguingly designed, a bit slow, but very personal. The force behind the narrative comes through Susan Gifford, the female war correspondent, who is young, new to Vietnam, and - like all new reporters - out of her element. Although most of the internal thought within the book comes through Susan, the reader is often left feeling as though there must be more of her to know. She intrigues, but never quite allows the reader too close to her. On the other hand, the most mysteriously presented character, Hoang Van Son, is the more sharply drawn, the better presented, the one we feel we understand most at the end of the last page. There was a time in the 1980s and even through the early 1990s, when books about Vietnam seemed hard to read. Perhaps it was too soon, the war not far enough back in time. That started to change when authors decided to explore the war, its people, and the effects in a different way. Leimbach's book is one of those efforts, and a very good one at that. Although much of the novel is centered on Susan's arrival and adjustment to the country and her job of reporting, and there is the obligatory romance with an American television reporter, and a deep friendship with her Vietnamese photographer, it is not until her fate is in the hands of the Vietcong, that the story really becomes what it wants to be all along. Leimbach is an excellent writer, an obviously very good researcher, and has a keen sense for nuance and the story beneath the story. Any lover of fine literature will enjoy The Man from Saigon. Leimbach will be watched for what she will write next. It will feel right if she stays on her dreamy, internal side as that is her strength. Regularly portrayed characters, expected scenes, and every day life and relationships are not her strength. She excels when stirring emotions around a thinking brain and letting her characters walk those out.
orangewords on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A very interesting novel. Leimbach's descriptions of Vietnam are quite moving, and very detailed. All of her characters are multi-layered and intriguing. Leimbach hides as much as she reveals, and that makes for a very interesting and very moving book. That being said, I will not be keeping this book as a permanent part of my library, though I would not discourage others from reading it.
SamSattler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Vietnam War meant different things to different people because they cane to the war in very different ways. Some entered it, kicking and screaming, via the nerve-wracking military draft of the sixties, and a few joined up in order to avoid the prison time they deserved. Others, for reasons of their own, volunteered to join the fight. But, even then, common foot soldiers saw the war through eyes very different from those of the career officers who led them. Nurses, doctors and journalists had yet another Vietnam War experience - and, then, there were those rare female journalists who experienced something else altogether different.Marti Leimbach's latest novel, "The Man from Saigon," tells the story of one of those female reporters, Susan Gifford, a woman who came to Vietnam to write special interest stories for a women's magazine but could not resist the dangerous pull of going into the field with her fellow reporters, a decision she would often regret after it was too late to do anything about it. Susan's willingness to place herself in harm's way would eventually lead to her capture (along with Son, her Vietnamese photographer) by three North Vietnamese soldiers who would march her deep into the jungle in search of the unit from which they had become separated prior to stumbling upon Susan and Son."The Man from Saigon," though, is about more than the trauma associated with chaotic firefights and ambushes by enemy soldiers. It is about personal relationships and how those relationships are shaped and changed when the constant possibility of a brutal, and sudden, death hangs over one's head for months at a time. The novel explores the willingness of those who place themselves in that kind of situation to live all aspects of their lives on the edge. Needless to say, romance seldom plays much of a role in the practical relationships that often develop inside a war zone.Susan finds herself involved with two very different men: a physical relationship with a married network news broadcaster who has been in-country for some twenty-nine months and a friendly relationship with the Vietnamese photographer who shares her tiny apartment in Saigon between their trips into the field to cover the war. In a way, she loves both of them, and neither of them - but together they give her the emotional support she needs to survive her Vietnam experience.Marti Leimbach offers an insightful look at the whole Vietnam War experience, but with a slightly different twist to it. As she puts it in the novel, "It feels to her (Susan) that the universal theme of this country is departure and loss. Everyone is always in the process of leaving. Everyone is dying or disappearing or going away or being sent home. You never got used to it."Those readers who have read, or plan to read, the moving new Vietnam War novel, "Matterhorn," by Karl Marlantes will find that "The Man from Saigon" is a nice companion piece in the way it looks at the war from a completely different point-of-view, this time from the viewpoint of those paid to be there to tell the rest of us what was really happening there. Rated at: 4.0
nanajlove on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This novel is an excellent learning opportunity as well as an involving read. Learning about the Vietnam war as well as vicariously experiencing how jarring and difficult it is to be a journalist in a war zone is a unique opportunity. The author has skillfully woven the complexities of the protagonist's relationships, her struggles for recognition and equality, and intrigue against the backdrop of a violent bloody war.
loafhunter13 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's 1967 and Susan Gifford is one of the first female correspondents in Saigon, dedicated to her job and passionately in love with an American TV reporter. Son is a Vietnamese photographer who accompanies her as they cover combat missions. On a November morning they escape death during an ambush but find themselves prisoners of three rogue Vietcong soldiers. Helpless in the hands of the enemy, they face the jungle, living always with the threat of being killed. But Son turns out to have a secret history that will one day separate Susan from her American lover. As they are held under terrifyingly harsh conditions, it becomes clear just how profound their relationship is and how important it has become to both of them.Leimbach pens an interesting, if not entirely tidy, tale of life, love, and loss during the Vietnam War. The war is undeniable but serves as a constant, tense background for the movements of the main characters. Those characters are nicely developed; their personalities jump off the page. Leimbach has a talent for words, and uses them to very positive effect in many cases. The strength of her fiction and her narrative comes from not only words, but the amount of research she conducted to write the book as evidenced in the acknowledgement section. The same touch with words is also one of the facets that holds the book back as at times it feels like Leimbach over-thinks a scenario, over-describes a scene. or over analyzes a moment. Her own ability and passion for the creative description can overwhelm the narratives in places. The narrative itself is not safe from this as the entire story tangent following Marc Davis feels unnecessary, used only as filler to keep the jungle passages tense and appealing. The ending is mysterious as well. One would not expect a clean conclusion nor should one expect lengthy reflections on the events of the book. The ending here is both interesting for its terseness and disappointing for its weak finish. The book is a solid effort, carried by Leimbach's writing skill, the rich yet horrific events of the Vietnam War, and solid research. Its inconstancies are trying at times but do not affect the reader's enjoyment of the book.
oldman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Man from Saigon by Marti Leimbach is anything but a romantic story in an exotic place. The most telling words came at the end where war is described as destroying everything - life, love and relationships. To return to the beginning, Susan Gifford is a journalist working for a women¿s magazine. Suddenly, for little reason, she is sent to Viet Nam shortly before the Tet offensive began, the beginning of the end of US involvement in Viet Nam. Her task was to seek out stories of particular interest to women or which had a female component to the story. Being a journalist in a war zone, she took risks not common to her previous experience. She traveled with convoys, witnessed combat and saw results combat. She developed special relationships. One was with Marc, a cynical, hard-bitten journalist who had been in Viet Nam for more than two years. They met in a bunker under mortar attack. Throughout the book their relationship grows, physically and emotionally, but becomes a casualty of the war with later events. Another relationship was with Son, a photographer who attached himself to her both professionally and personally. This relationship was emotional, without the physical interaction. The disrupting event occurs with her and Son¿s capture by Viet Cong. Traveling through the jungle to find their unit, the three captors take the woman and photographer for a week or more through the maze of vines, trees and overwhelming heat. The story is from the woman¿s view of how fearful she was, how dirty she was and yet how dependent she was upon her captors. She also sees Son differently who, by language and possibly also by political persuasion, is a Viet Cong. Ultimately though, she bonds with Son, almost a love bond and comes to view her captors as not as savage as she had been lead to see them. Marc is lost without her and wanders the delta region awaiting her return. However he isn¿t only waiting, his beautiful wife appears, pregnant, to convince him to return home. All is not well in this relationship either, as her pregnancy is not by her husband, Marc, but by another man. Another relationship destroyed by the war. He returns to the US, more cynical than ever and not capable of being a reporter in the peaceful America. When Susan is found, after a fire fight in which her captors are all killed, just as she is beginning to see them as intelligent, swaggering, young men. She saves Son, but that relationship founders with their separation after being rescued. He tells her to leave the country ¿before Tet¿, who returns to Hanoi. The story ends with her not knowing exactly what relationship exists or existed with Son, as he is a very clever man.This was an enjoyable read, though not ending at all happily, because it showed the reality of war and the damage it causes. The fear, anger, violent death and distorted relationships experienced by everyone within the grasp of war change people for all their lives. Though never a prisoner myself the description of Susan¿s days as a prisoner and her ultimate feelings about her captors ¿ looking for the ¿good side¿ of them, though they carried guns and knives all the time ¿ left me wondering that her response to her situation was not abnormal. Marc¿s response to his time in country was to become more cynical and depressed, drowning his feelings in alcohol and drugs. I became caught up in the process of the war, the alternating scenes of her captivity and, in a way, his captivity too. The writing was lucid and flowed well. I give this book 3 and one-half stars.
paulco on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Different from other books about Viet Nam, this one was a bit difficult for me because of the first person writing on the part of the author, not a format I am comfortable with. It's an intimate portrayl of the war, no grand scale here. People have problems, die or are swept along by what they can't control.
JGoto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading Marti Leimbach¿s new book, The Man from Saigon. Set during the Vietnam War, the story follows Susan Gifford, a war correspondent. Susan is the lover of Marc Davies, a married American TV reporter, and the partner of a Vietnamese news photographer, Hoang Van Son. While reporting on a mission in the jungle, Susan and Son become lost and are captured by the Vietcong.Leimbach¿s descriptions of their trek through the jungle are vivid and gripping. Moving back and forth between Susan¿s memories and her situation as a hungry, tired prisoner, Leimbach is also able to capture the seedy quality of Saigon and the horror of the refugee camps. Like her other books, The Man from Saigon is a love story. Susan¿s emotions waver between her seemingly hopeless affair with Marc in Saigon and her relationship with Son, which turns out to be much more complicated than she had ever imagined.Although both were very engaging, I liked The Man from Saigon better than Leimbach¿s Daniel Isn¿t Talking. I think the reason for this is the fact that the characters in the later book are more complex and the ending isn¿t as tidy.
freckles1987 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To be honest, I was prepared for disappointment after reading the other reviews of The Man from Saigon. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Leimbach effectively evokes the sweltering atmosphere, and the stretched-out terror of living in a country at war. There are enough summaries of this novel, so I will just provide some of my reactions. First and foremost, I was very impressed with the amount of research Leimbach did in the creation of this book. Her attention to realism shows a dedication both to her craft, and to the men and women who lived and worked in Vietnam.The narrative style drew me in, although I never much cared for Marc, the American reporter and love interest. The uncertain ending left me yearning for more, perhaps an answer to the enigma of Son. Susan I was ambivalent about, although the terror of her capture was very realistic and I could not help but feel terror for her. Mostly, the side characters of Locke; and the mysterious Son made the book for me. They were not overly simplified, but multifaceted (like real people). Likewise, the representation of war, medicine, and daily life in a war zone were minute and fascinating. In summary, the atmosphere and characterizations in the novel make the Man from Saigon an exciting, and sometimes heart-wrenching read.While this is not something I would have noticed if browsing at a store, I am immensely happy for reading it and will read more of Leimbach's fiction in the future.
Harvee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A book that gives you the feeling of being there in the war with the female journalist. Susan Gifford. I am strongly reminded of another book printed after this one in 2010, The Lotus Eaters, which seems to have plot similarities to The Man from Saigon, which was printed the year before. Excellent writing, though I would have preferred more dialogue in this book, to break up the long stretches of reported speech, descriptions, and internal dialogue . I received this book as part of the Early Reviewers program.
SeriousGrace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an interesting read for me due, in part, to the fact I was reading The Making of a Quagmire by David Halberstam at the same time. Leimbach's descriptions of Vietnam mirrored Halberstam's almost perfectly. The rainy, muggy climate, the poverty stricken communities, the brash (trying-to-be-brave) military presence, but above all, the reporters trying to capture the atrocities of politics and war while remaining mentally sound and physically safe. Of course, Leimbach's story is a bit less intense with the addition of an adulterous romance threaded through the bomb blasts and sniper attacks. Susan Gifford is a green reporter trying her hand at covering the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. When she is taken captive by the Vietnam Communists, the Vietcong, along with her photographer, Hoang Van Son, the plot thickens. Susan is suddenly confronted with a profound and deep relationship that was originally a professional partnership forged out of necessity.
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MSaff More than 1 year ago
Marti Leimbach, has a wonderful style of writing which draws the reader into the story from the start. This is obvious in "The Man From Saigon", a story of a female reporter/journalist, In-Country, to give reports of the war from the side of a woman, for a Women's Magazine. As the story unfolds, Susan Gifford is sent Saigon to cover the war in 1967. She finds and falls in love with another reporter, Marc, a TV Reporter, who is also in Saigon covering the war. There is a third main character, in Susan's photographer, Son, a Vietnamese man who is looking to make a name for himself, yet finds Susan and wants her to take him on as her photographer. Right from the start you see drama and unexpected turns in the story. Susan is the type of reporter/journalist that does not want to stay in Saigon and cover the war from a press conference point of view, so she ventures out with patrols of military personnel to get the story right from the source. The question I have is whether this novel is a non-fiction, fiction, or historical fiction. Many of the details are true to form with descriptions of conditions and topography throughout the story, and Marti Leimbach has done a lot of research for the time period. Bravo Marti. There's also the hidden agenda of Son. What are his true motives for wanting to be so close to Susan and the American Military establishment. Is he up to no good, or are his intentions really what he wants us to believe? You'll have to read this novel to find out for yourself. When Susan and Son are separated from their escorts of military personnel in the jungle, a new set of circumstances take place which again, will keep the reader on the edge of the seat. What is the outcome? Again, this is a must read. "The Man From Saigon", belongs in a permanent library for reading over and over again.
grumpydan More than 1 year ago
Susan Gifford, female war correspondent in Vietnam is taken prisoner, along with her Vietnamese photographer, Son. THE MAN FROM SAIGON by Marti Leimbach is a well written story that is not only descriptive of what it is like in the jungles of Vietnam, but also the hardships of that war. It is also a love story (Susan and her married lover, Marc). I found I couldn't put the book down as they struggled on their march through the jungle. Quite an impressive novel.