So I picked "The Secrets of the Red Lantern", which is a combination cookbook/memoir, by Australian-Vietnamese restaurateur Pauline Nguyen:
|Pauline, her mother Cuc Phuong Nguyen, and her youngest brother Luke, her business partner and co-author.|
I thought it would be a welcome break from all the intense literature and memoirs I had chosen for South East Asia. Plus, after not having access to an Asian market for many years, I finally had the wonderful www.lotteplaza.com a short distance away, so I wouldn't have to compromise on ingredients, drive to another country (France, during my pork-and-potato years in Germany) for unusual foodstuffs, or skip an interesting recipe all together.
Then I started feeling guilty. A cookbook for a 52-country choice? Even as a respite from my other selections, it did seem a bit frivolous. So I did another search through the Vietnamese literature lists on Good Reads, accepted there was no avoiding the war, and selected "No Man's Land" by Duong Thu Huong:
Duong Thu Huong was the daughter of a Communist Party leader. At the age of twenty she became an entertainer in a Communist Youth Brigade; despite her non-combat status she was only one out of three survivors out of the original group of forty. She was deafened in one ear after a bomb exploded, killing the girl beside her. Later she was pressured into marriage and gave birth in the tunnels of central Vietnam. After the war, she returned to writing and producing screenplays for the Communist Party, but gradually became a critic of the repressive practices of the government. She was expelled from the Communist Party, imprisoned for seven months, and smuggled out her first adult novel, "No Man's Land" to a Vietnamese press in France; it was subsequently the first Vietnamese novel published in the United States. Her passport has been revoked, and her novels are banned in her native country. A more complete biography by her English translator, Nina McPherson, can be read here: www.vietnamlit.org.
So I've started reading "The Red Lantern", which is turning out to be less of an escape than I expected. Plus I have yet another wartime novel. It must be the fates....