Monday, April 8, 2013

Trang Sen

Trang Sen: A Novel
Sarah-Ann Smith
Pisgah Press
Candler, North Carolina
ISBN: 978-0-615-60071-0
$ 19.50
294 pages

Are we all a result of our choices or of our circumstances?

Trang Sen is not the typical girl growing up in the rice fields of South Vietnam during the early 1960s. She possesses an intelligence that is challenging to her parents and the traditions of her country. With her oldest brother attending school in France, this family relies on every person to be responsible and loyal to the family. Trang Sen excels in being the best for plowing the rice fields. Her raw determination and stubbornness makes her focus on her goals rather than her natural beauty and intelligence. What is a beautiful and brilliant girl doing plowing the fields?

As South Vietnam enters the war allied with the French, her brother, Long returns with plans on being a part of the local leadership joining with the forces of the South Vietnamese. As a brother, he quickly sees that Trang Sen needs more education and arranges for her schooling in Saigon at a Catholic school for girls. This is life changing for Sen as she quickly needs to adjust to life in a protected convent school and life in the city. She excels so well in her French studies that the nuns arrange to send her to France to continue her studies.

Through the eyes of Trang Sen, the reader actually experiences life in Vietnam from the beginning of the conflict with the French involvement through the American occupation. While at the convent school in Saigon, Sen notices an American soldier and is fascinated with his blond hair and blue eyes. As the war progresses, the changes in both the village and Saigon are closely monitored by the American military and diplomats. Sen's fascination and curiousity leads her into a completely new life that she never imagined.

Trang Sen is fascinated by an American diplomat who is mesmerized by her beauty. The two quickly begin a relationship against the wishes of Sen's family. What Sen naively does not realize is that the diplomat is married with children and cannot marry her. This becomes a difficulty when she becomes pregnant. What future is there for her now?

Sarah-Ann Smith actually was a member of the U.S. Diplomatic corps. She served in Taiwan and Hong Kong. She presently presides in Spartansburg, South Carolina.

Trang Sen is a well-written enticing story of the story of a Vietnamese woman adjusting to a quickly changing world. Even when the reader thinks they know what will happen to Sen next, the journey is truly addictive. The characters are believable and well-developed with both their gifts and flaws exposed as the story progresses.

Women who love romances would find this novel perfect for them. However, other readers would also enjoy this novel for its historical accuracies and perspectives. Trang Sen is a novel for everyone.

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