Earlier in April 2014, I participated in the A to Z blogging challenge. This challenge involved blogging every day in April (with the exception of Sundays) on themes that started with the alphabets A to Z. One of the recommendations of the challenge was that you also visited blogs of others who were participating in the challenge. This is how I came across a blog describing the book “Village Teacher“. The author Nguyen Hien very graciously offered me a copy of the book to read but circumstances prevented me from reading the book immediately and it was only very recently that I finally managed to read this book.
Village Teacher is set in the late 19th century in Vietnam. That alone made the book a great prospect for me to read for I hardly know anything about the country or its history. The events in the book happen against the backdrop of forces that are competing against each other for the reigns of power. The historic dynasty is practically defunct with the French having installed a ten year old king. The French are in their ascendancy in the land.
The story’s protagonist is a young school teacher know as Teacher Tam who has recently arrived in the capital city of Hue in order to take up national examantions that would enable him to become a mandarin. The book follows the adventures of Teacher Tam- an exceptionally wise but young person with a strong moral sense of right and wrong. He meets and falls in love with Giang the daughter of one of the more powerful French officers and the daughter of a Vietnamese merchant. His relationship with Giang is not without perils and forces conspire to thwart Teacher Tam. Ultimately things resolve for the good but not before a few heart wrenching moments.
The Village Teacher, I felt, more than anything else is a beautiful story of love and devotion that is set against a rich historical background. Through teacher Tam we are introduced to the various conflicts that are happening in the land. Take the instance of the writing system- Giang teaches Tam the romanised version of the Vietnamese script introduced by the French which is far simpler than the traditional script. Tam feels that he can spread literacy faster by teaching the simplified script to more people, however this action is used by his detractors to blame him.
The book is written in a simple but elegant language which flows quite easily. Once I started reading the book I could not put it down. I’m very grateful for the author who graciously offered this book to me for free and I feel bad that it took me about 8 months to review this. I’m also all in admiration for the author as he isn’t a full time writer but wrote this book in addition to his regular work.
All in all, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in fiction and also in the history of the Southeast Asian region. You can find the book on amazon as a kindle edition.
You can also follow the author and his blog at http://neihtn.wordpress.com/