The Lotus Eaters A Novel

Tatjana Soli

St. Martin's Griffin



Trade Paperback

416 Pages



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In the final days of a falling Saigon, The Lotus Eaters unfolds the story of three photographers brought together under the impossible umbrella of war: Helen Adams, a once-naïve ingénue whose ambition conflicts with her desire over the course of the fighting; Linh, the Vietnamese man who loves her, but is torn between conflicting loyalties to his homeland and his heart; and Sam Darrow, a man addicted to the narcotic of violence, to his intoxicating affair with Helen and to the ever-increasing danger of his job. All three become transformed by the conflict they have risked everything to record.

In this much-heralded debut, Tatjana Soli creates a searing portrait of three souls trapped by their impossible passions, contrasting the wrenching horror of combat and the treachery of obsession with the redemptive power of love.


Praise for The Lotus Eaters

"Splendid ... Soli portrays these love stories so thoughtfully, and with such care, that they take precedence over the fireworks of battle. In this novel, love eclipses war, at least momentarily . . . Helen's restlessness and grappling, her realization that 'a woman sees war differently,' provide a new and fascinating perspective on Vietnam. Vivid battle scenes, sensual romantic entanglements, and elegant writing add to the pleasures of The Lotus Eaters." —Danielle Trussoni, The New York Times Book Review

"[A] haunting debut novel. . . quietly mesmerizing . . . if it sounds as if a love story is the central element in The Lotus Eaters (which takes its title from those characters in The Odyssey who succumb he allure of honeyed fruit), Ms. Soli's book is sturdier than that. Its object lessons in how Helen learns to refine her -wartime photography are succinct and powerful. By exposing its readers to the violence of war only gradually and sparingly, the novel becomes all the more effective." —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"Lotus-eaters, in Greek mythology, taste and then become possessed by the narcotic plant. Already an accomplished short story writer, Soli uses as her epigraph a passage from Homer's The Odyssey in which the lotus-eaters are robbed of their will to return home. It is a clue, right from the start, that this novel will delve into the lives of those who become so fixated on recording savagery that life in a peaceful, functioning society begins to feel banal and inconsequential."—The Washington Post

"If it's possible to judge a novel by its first few lines, then The Lotus Eaters, Tatjana Soli's fiction debut, shows great promise right from the start . . . Anyone who has seen Kathryn's Bigelow's Oscar-winning film, The Hurt Locker, understands that the obsession with violence and risk, at least for a certain personality type, is hard to shake. That Soli's story explores this mindset from a woman's perspective (and a journalist, not a soldier) adds interesting and unexpected layers." —The Boston Globe

"Devastatingly awesome . . . It's one of those books that I didn't want to put down—I resented everything else that I needed to do in my life, because I didn't want to stop reading it."—Nancy Pearl, NPR

"35 years after the fall of Saigon, Soli's entrancing debut brings you close enough to feel a part of it."—People

"A haunting world of war, betrayal, courage, obsession, and love."—Tim O'Brien, author of The Things They Carried

"You must read The Lotus Eaters, Tatjana Soli's beautiful and harrowing new novel. Its characters are unforgettable."—Richard Russo, author of That Old Cape Magic

"The very steam from Vietnam's jungles seems to rise from the pages of Tatjana Soli's tremendously evocative debut . . . A beautiful book."—Janice Y. K. Lee, author of The Piano Teacher

Reviews from Goodreads



Read an Excerpt

April 28, 1975

The city teetered in a dream state. Helen walked down the deserted street. The quiet was eerie. Time running out. A long-handled barber's razor, cradled in the nest of its strop, lay...

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  • Tatjana Soli

  • Tatjana Soli's short stories have been widely published, nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and twice cited in the 100 Distinguished Stories in Best American Short Stories. The Lotus Eaters, her debut novel, was a New York Times bestseller and Editors Choice and a finalist for the L.A. Times Book Award. Born in Salzburg, Austria, Soli attended Stanford University and the Warren Wilson M.F.A. program. She lives in Orange County, California.

  • Tatjana Soli Marion Ettlinger
    Tatjana Soli




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