Subtitled ""A History of Colonial and Post-Colonial Vietnam,"" this enormous book details the tribulations of a singular place and singular people from the 1800's to 1963: from the determined, inflexible Paul Doumer, who ""made"" French Indochina, to the equally brilliant, stubborn Ngo Dinh Diem. For most readers, particularly Americans, it is the first half of this tragic tale which is least well known, hence most valuable to have made available in coherent form. Mr. Buttinger, while he departs quite often from strict scholastic neutrality in his descriptions of the Viet Mich and North Vietnam, is not blind to the shortcomings of South Vietnamese and American anti-Communist policies and practice. Nor does he fail to confer on the French their full share of blame for subsequent events. True, many seeds of today's--and tomorrow's--disasters were sown by the French, in their perhaps unique ability to put ""the face of normalcy"" on persisting crises; but one could wish that Mr. Buttinger had begun his exhaustive account even farther back, with the nearly quarter-century it took the French to conquer this land. One might also point out that several sections of the work could have been shorter, and clearer, in outline. Nevertheless this is a monumental study.