Ho Chi Minh City is the largest city in Vietnam. Under the name Saigon, it was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina and later of the independent republic of South Vietnam. After the war in 1976, it was renamed after Ho Chi Minh, the revolutionary leader.
While no longer a colonial outpost under an oppressive occupational regime, the French legacy is still evident in the colonial architecture and the exceptional quality of the food. More recently, it was the Vietnam War that left scars that only recently began to heal.
The most famous book about Saigon is undoubtedly Graham Greene’s The Quiet American. Set during the Indochina war between the Viet Minh and the French after WWII, an idealistic American is sent to promote democracy. The novel cannily foreshadows the American involvement in Vietnam.
Written while on assignment in the field during the war, Michael Herr’s Dispatches is still one of the best works of war reportage ever written. Compared to the writing of Orwell, Hemingway and Hart Crane, it doesn’t get better than this.
More recently, The Sympathizer by Viet Thank Nguyen tells the story of a communist double agent – half French, half Vietnamese – who plots his escape to America during the fall of Saigon. It won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize.
When Heaven and Earth Changed Places by Le Ly Haslip is the memoir of a woman who suffered near-starvation, imprisonment, torture, rape, and the deaths of beloved family members before making it to America. But she reunites with her family in Vietnam and discovers the hardships they continued to endure in her absence.
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Read More: We curated over 30 books set in Ho Chi Minh City. Memoir, Journalism, Thrillers, Literary fiction, History, Romance and more. View the full list below…