DUST OF LIFE by Liz Thomas


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Liz Thomas, a young British woman who went to Vietnam in 1972 at 21 and stayed through the North Vietnamese takeover of Saigon is one of those rare individuals who never waver from their special calling. Hers was the Vietnamese poor and she became a nurse in order to be sent to that ravaged country. She arrived to tend babies at one of Saigon's many miserable orphanages but soon moved on to work eighteen-hour days in hospitals and prisons and on the streets. Eventually her special project became a sanctuary for drug-addicted prostitutes and street children, but she had burned her Western clothes long before and begun eating and sleeping like a Vietnamese. Her book, written from memory, is a fascinating rush of social observation in corrupt and lovely Saigon: the market where everything from ducks to TV-sets was sold; the Honda, that ubiquitous means of transport that carried whole families; the horror of the filthy, ill-attended Saigon hospital; the universal joy of the Tet holiday; and the general panic during the American evacuation--after which ""everyone became much poorer."" She herself was so hard pressed that the girls' home had to be dissolved and at one point she and some friends were forced to curry and eat their pet dog. A unique account of wartime Saigon, this cascade of impressions and emotions by a young Western woman who ""went native"" compels attention.

Pub Date: Jan. 20th, 1977
Publisher: Dutton