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Capsule Review

The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family

In This Review

The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family

The Sacred Willow: Four Generations in the Life of a Vietnamese Family
By Duong van Mai Elliott
Oxford University Press, 1999 608 pp. $30.00 Purchase

In this vivid and personal account, Mai Elliott succeeds in bringing to life the social and political realities of modern Vietnam. Her great-grandfather was a Confucian mandarin-scholar in traditional Vietnam, her grandfather a high official under the French, and her father an official during the transition to independence in 1954. Her own generation of siblings and cousins experienced the agonies of the Vietnam War. Today, her once tightly knit family is scattered in America, France, Canada, Australia, and Vietnam. Now married to an American, Mai Elliott brilliantly captures the social and psychological strains of native officials under colonial rule as they sought the elusive goals of national identity and modernization. She is equally impressive in recounting the conflicting pressures that all Vietnamese had to endure in the last days of the war, when they had to accept the fact that the future lay with the communists.

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