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"A splendid memoir...a tale, at once tragic and beautiful, of love and loss, of coming of age and of witnessing the end of Indochina as the West had known it for more than a century."—Los Angleles Times Book Review. From the writer immortalized in the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields. "A splendid memoir...a tale, at once tragic and beautiful, of love and loss, of coming of age and of witnessing the end of Indochina as the West had known it for more than a century."—Los Angleles Times Book Review. From the writer immortalized in the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields.


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"A splendid memoir...a tale, at once tragic and beautiful, of love and loss, of coming of age and of witnessing the end of Indochina as the West had known it for more than a century."—Los Angleles Times Book Review. From the writer immortalized in the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields. "A splendid memoir...a tale, at once tragic and beautiful, of love and loss, of coming of age and of witnessing the end of Indochina as the West had known it for more than a century."—Los Angleles Times Book Review. From the writer immortalized in the Academy Award-winning film The Killing Fields.

30 review for River of Time

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bronwyn

    This book grew on me. At first I was disgusted with the author's exotification of Southeast Asia -- his love of foreign women, French colonial culture, opium. Add to that his addiction to war and social unrest as an excuse to throw off the tedium of life in Western society. That he enjoyed the decadence of prostitutes, drugs and "free living" while the societies around him decayed slowly seemed reprehensible. However, I just couldn't help being moved by his account of the fall of Vietnam and Phn This book grew on me. At first I was disgusted with the author's exotification of Southeast Asia -- his love of foreign women, French colonial culture, opium. Add to that his addiction to war and social unrest as an excuse to throw off the tedium of life in Western society. That he enjoyed the decadence of prostitutes, drugs and "free living" while the societies around him decayed slowly seemed reprehensible. However, I just couldn't help being moved by his account of the fall of Vietnam and Phnom Penh. The latter, in particular, is heart-wrenching. The author's account of the fall of PP to the Khmer Rouge is a brilliant piece of journalism and an essential historical account of a critical point in Cambodian history. Swain may have flown back into PP for the thrill of the chase, but not even I could deny the humanity in his account of this dreadful, unspeakable event. I read this book while traveling in Cambodia which increased its poignancy for me but it will appeal to anyone interested in learning more about a critical part of recent world history. For those traveling in SE Asia this book is a MUST to understand what Cambodian and Vietnamese people have endured over the past 50 years. And while Swain may be nostalgic for a French-ruled Indochina, readers will understand that what these people really needed and continue to need is foreign aid and support, not cultural imperialism.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Korynn

    This book is haunted. This book is not so much a biography as a pouring out of love and guilt and sadness. On every page the author recounts a treasured memory mixed with people and places tragically erased by horrific circumstances. There is a sadness and a helplessness in the pages, it reads like a confessional at times, a need to get events on paper to exorcise the ghosts and experiences that haunt him. The most complete sections are those that deal with the author's witness to the fall of Sa This book is haunted. This book is not so much a biography as a pouring out of love and guilt and sadness. On every page the author recounts a treasured memory mixed with people and places tragically erased by horrific circumstances. There is a sadness and a helplessness in the pages, it reads like a confessional at times, a need to get events on paper to exorcise the ghosts and experiences that haunt him. The most complete sections are those that deal with the author's witness to the fall of Saigon and the fall of Phnom Penh.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Becky

    It took me a while to appreciate this book. I knew any memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia during this time would be full of atrocities, drugs, bad guys, exploiters, politics, grim images etc. so I was a bit taken back with the author's statement "This was the best time of my life." However, the author's perspective is very well written with vivid details of the day to day incidents that surrounded him. His small personal and humane stories warmed me to him. Having just been to Cambodia and Vietnam, It took me a while to appreciate this book. I knew any memoir of Vietnam and Cambodia during this time would be full of atrocities, drugs, bad guys, exploiters, politics, grim images etc. so I was a bit taken back with the author's statement "This was the best time of my life." However, the author's perspective is very well written with vivid details of the day to day incidents that surrounded him. His small personal and humane stories warmed me to him. Having just been to Cambodia and Vietnam, the brutal history made me cringe and I can't say I "enjoyed" reading it.

  4. 5 out of 5

    thereadytraveller

    River of Time is a beautifully written memoir by an English journalist living in the lands of the Mekong during the wars in Indo-China in 1970-1975. An outstanding and moving account of personal experiences during one of the most tumultuous periods of recent history, River of Time is essential reading for anyone interested in the haunting history of this region. Swain arrives in Indo-China in his early 20's, at an age not much older than the average American soldier after being posted to Vietnam River of Time is a beautifully written memoir by an English journalist living in the lands of the Mekong during the wars in Indo-China in 1970-1975. An outstanding and moving account of personal experiences during one of the most tumultuous periods of recent history, River of Time is essential reading for anyone interested in the haunting history of this region. Swain arrives in Indo-China in his early 20's, at an age not much older than the average American soldier after being posted to Vietnam to cover the war as an Agence France-Presse (AFP) correspondent for a 3 month assignment. Addicted to the countries on whom he is reporting and the adrenaline rush of war, Swain falls in love with a beautiful French-Vietnamese woman, Jacqueline, and ends up staying longer than five years in this amazing part of the world. Written as if in a beautiful haze some 20 years after the events that took place, River of Time is now seems shrouded and enveloped by the mists of time. Beginning from when Swain first arrives in Vietnam and including a brief period in Cambodia before authorities revoke his Visa, we are swept along with Swain's story of his love-infused moments with Jacqueline snatched amongst the ever present dangers of his reporting. Describing Jacqueline as the person whom he loved the most in the world, they manage to escape from the war by visiting such idyllic and beautiful places as spiritual Hue and Dalat within the Vietnamese Central Highlands. River of Time perfectly captures the exoticness and enticing danger of the times. Whether watching entrancing woman dressed in áo dài riding cyclos, sampans drifting down the Mekong or describing the fumeries and opium dens of which he frequents, Swain's portayal of Indo-China is beguiling. Accompanied by amazing stories of the colons resident in both countries, River of Time is a genuinely spell-binding read. All the beauty he depicts, however, is juxtaposed against the horrific scenes that also accompanies both the ongoing Vietnam War (American War as called by the Vietnamese) and the Cambodian Civil Wars. Be warned, Swain describes scenes that are heart wrenching and extremely moving and whilst not graphically described, the horror is in no way diminished. Anyone who has seen the Roland Joffe directed movie, The Killing Fields, will recognise Swain as one of the central characters. Leaving Vietnam on the last flight into Phnom Penh before its impending fall to the Khmer Rouge, he meets up with Dith Pran and Sydney Schanberg, the New York Time correspondent who wrote the book The Death and Life of Dith Pran on which the movie is based. Describing both the events that occurred up to and the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge's conquest, there will be very few people who aren't moved to tears of both frustration and sadness. Swain's human witness to the death of friends, colleagues, soldiers, civilians and even a piece of himself and ability to convey this to the reader is what makes this books so amazingly good. Alongside First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung, River of Time is a must read before viewing the marvels of Angkor Wat and more especially before visiting the killing fields of Choeung Ek or the genocide museum of Tuol Sleng. By gaining an understanding that violence is as much a part of the Cambodian character as that of the smiling peasantry portrayed in tourist posters, it provides a deeper context and understanding of the events that have taken place and shaped the countries and people of both Cambodia and Vietnam.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brad

    This book suffers from ambiguous writing and missed opportunities for insight. For instance, there are various ethical dilemmas he faced that receive superficial treatment and a failure to consider in depth the connection between his wonderful colonial experience and the later suffering and abandonment of the Cambodians. The book also contains maddeningly incomprehensible sentences and long phrases of French and Vietnamese, which the author uses as important parts of paragraphs and yet pretentio This book suffers from ambiguous writing and missed opportunities for insight. For instance, there are various ethical dilemmas he faced that receive superficial treatment and a failure to consider in depth the connection between his wonderful colonial experience and the later suffering and abandonment of the Cambodians. The book also contains maddeningly incomprehensible sentences and long phrases of French and Vietnamese, which the author uses as important parts of paragraphs and yet pretentiously leaves untranslated. The book nonetheless was a valuable read while I traveled in Vietnam. Swain provides accounts, mostly first-hand, of the many horrors of the conflicts in Cambodia and Vietnam. I found his narration empathetic and sometimes heart-breaking. The second half of the book seemed much stronger than the first, maybe because Swain's romanticized calm before the storm is less compelling than the storm itself. (Here, the storm is the wars reaching his beloved cities, Phnom Penh and Saigon, and his friends there.)

  6. 5 out of 5

    Adam Alston

    One of the favourite books i've read, a really intoxicating memoir of an amazing place in a crazy time. This book briefly captures the magic of one individual's experience of Cambodia at a special time which has now past into pages and memories. The powerful and colourful recollection of the somewhat magical 'pre-war' Cambodia, and also the somewhat darker magic of War-era Vietnam, from a working journalists point of view, I found to be an extremely rewarding read. Finishing the book in 5 weekda One of the favourite books i've read, a really intoxicating memoir of an amazing place in a crazy time. This book briefly captures the magic of one individual's experience of Cambodia at a special time which has now past into pages and memories. The powerful and colourful recollection of the somewhat magical 'pre-war' Cambodia, and also the somewhat darker magic of War-era Vietnam, from a working journalists point of view, I found to be an extremely rewarding read. Finishing the book in 5 weekdays (outside of work) all I can think of is how unlucky I am to have missed such an amazing place, one which was irreversibly changed forever. I thank the author for providing us a glimpse into it, of his life, of the characters he got to meet, of the happiness and sadness he encountered along the way If you're thinking about going to Cambodia, or even Vietnam, you seriously need to read this

  7. 4 out of 5

    Robert Dodds

    A harrowing account of the horrors of war in Indo-China, lightened somewhat by Swain's reflections on his own youthful captivation with Cambodia, Vietnam, and their people. It is also a story of how the romantic love of his life is blighted by his own compulsion to travel to war zones and report on them. He forces the reader to face up to the desperate sadness of what we like to call 'inhuman' behaviour - although unfortunately it is all too human. We are left marvelling at the bravery - or fool A harrowing account of the horrors of war in Indo-China, lightened somewhat by Swain's reflections on his own youthful captivation with Cambodia, Vietnam, and their people. It is also a story of how the romantic love of his life is blighted by his own compulsion to travel to war zones and report on them. He forces the reader to face up to the desperate sadness of what we like to call 'inhuman' behaviour - although unfortunately it is all too human. We are left marvelling at the bravery - or foolhardiness (he acknowledges the ambiguity) - of his journalistic passion.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Vikram

    It's filled with hopeless exoticism, but a beautiful account of a war correspondent's time in Indochina and to a lesser extent Ethiopia. His portrayal of Cambodia and the rise of the Khmer Rouge is particularly evocative and moving. It's filled with hopeless exoticism, but a beautiful account of a war correspondent's time in Indochina and to a lesser extent Ethiopia. His portrayal of Cambodia and the rise of the Khmer Rouge is particularly evocative and moving.

  9. 4 out of 5

    AC

    Beautifully written, poignant, exotic -- a travelogue, war diary, and introspection -- this book is many cuts above the usual of this genre. Highly recommended.

  10. 5 out of 5

    James

    A nostalgic look back at the author's days covering the Vietnam War and Cambodian Civil War. It is well written and the author is honestly aware of his own nostalgia for a turbulent time and place. A nostalgic look back at the author's days covering the Vietnam War and Cambodian Civil War. It is well written and the author is honestly aware of his own nostalgia for a turbulent time and place.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Elia Princess of Starfall

    “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” - F. Scott FitzGerald, The Great Gatsby In the years of Jon Swain's sublimely written and beautifully evocative memoir/pseudo-autobiography of his dangerous and frankly terrifying journeys throughout South-East Asia (1970-1975), the countries of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were in turmoil, confusion and crippled by war. It was a brutal, blood-stained and destructive time for all the civilians and soldiers of these wa “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” - F. Scott FitzGerald, The Great Gatsby In the years of Jon Swain's sublimely written and beautifully evocative memoir/pseudo-autobiography of his dangerous and frankly terrifying journeys throughout South-East Asia (1970-1975), the countries of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam were in turmoil, confusion and crippled by war. It was a brutal, blood-stained and destructive time for all the civilians and soldiers of these war-torn nations and it was this world that British journalist Jon Swain entered in 1970. It was a world unlike any he had seen or experienced in Europe and North America and one that would utterly enthral and ensnare his very heart and soul as he traversed throughout Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam; sailing down the shimmering waters of the Mekong River, meeting and experiencing new and fascinating people and their cultures as he walked through verdant rice fields as the fierce sun shone all the while being at the heart of action as war, communist ideology and the end of French colonisation consumed what was once called Indochina. Indeed, as one reads Swain's heady, intoxicating and darkly interesting tale of a lone British journalist gallivanting throughout South-East Asia, it is not hard to get the sense that French Indochina in its dying days had a profound and intense impact on Swain himself as he witnessed first hand the slow collapse of Western power in South-East Asia and the swift rise of communist powers in Laos (the Pathet Lao), Cambodia (The Khmer Rouge) and Vietnam (the Viet-Cong). It is this first-hand account and perspective, albeit from a Western outlook tinged with a romanticised, nostalgic idea of French rule of Indochina and a somewhat condescending outlook on the various peoples and cultures that inhabit South-East Asia, that truly allows the reader to experience the sights, sounds and smells of Indochina as it was in its last, heady, careful and hedonistic days. While the main focus of River of Time is on Swain's intimate personal feelings and experiences throughout slow fall of Indochina, Swain takes the time to interview numerous and diverse people from Europe, America and South-East Asia on their journeys through the life and legacy of dying Indochina, be they good experiences or, sadly, the most horrifying and heart-breaking trials and miseries any people could endure. Jon Swain has written a fascinating, hauntingly written chronicle of his journey throughout the lands of Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam as each of these countries and their people are trapped in ceaseless wars and conflicts as civilians pay the heavy price for being in the brunt of action between communist and non-communist armies and ultimately between the deadly Cold War powers of Western Europe and North America vs the Soviet Union and Communist China. Swain sails down the clear, crystalline waters of the Mekong bordered by swaying trees and small villages, he parties and smokes the nights away in the decadent and pleasure-loving city of Phnom Penh as he revels in the "Bars, Brothels and Boulevards" of French Indochina, he lazes around in the "filthy and free" Saigon, drunk on American prestige and wealth that will not last, with his French-Vietnamese ex-girlfriend Jacqueline, he witnesses, in all its horror and cruelty, the quick, mericless fall of Phnom Penh to the ruthless Khmer Rouge alongside leaving behind Cambodian colleagues and friends to the machinations of Pol Pot and his murderous communists and he sees first hand the desperation and misery heaped upon the boat people of Vietnam as they try to flee their communist-dominated land by boat and often only find death or boundless, savage cruelty at the hands of the sea itself or the pirates who kill and rape those unfortunate enough to fall into their hands. One story I found particularly sorrowful and harrowing was that of Chung Thi Ai Ngoc, a 13 year old Amerasian girl who, while trying to flee to the US with her mother, only to be captured by Thai pirates, raped and separated from her mother. Her story broke my heart and honestly, since Swain doesn't tell us what happened to her, I can only hope that she had a happy life in the end wherever she went. As Swain tells us, in this world, it is always the innocent children who suffer the most in war and times of poverty. In the end, Swain has written a sensual, almost provocative and eloquent book overflowing with both rampant hedonistic pleasures and heartbreaking, despairing scenes of cruelty and brutality. He writes with nostalgic passion and zest, his words having a sublime beauty and inborn sense of wonder. However, Swain does not shy away from the misery and violence he witnessed in South-East Asia as war, senseless cruelty and rape plagued Indochina in its last breaths and new, rigid regimes took power. In these moments, he is sometimes the participant but more often a powerless observer. However, there are times when his writing and perception of events are coloured by a certain Western arrogance (although this is sometimes tempered with a weary self-awareness) and a keen romanticising of the French colonial past and legacy in South-East Asia. However, this is worth the read as Swain expertly captures a glimpse of South-East Asia as it was in 1970s; a wild, beautiful and haunting land torn apart by war, Western powers and communist ideologies. Therefore, River of Time has not aged well in certain aspects and can make the modern reader wince as Swain waxes nostalgic for his hedonistic days in Phnom Penh, his exotic descriptions of Cambodian and Vietnamese women and casually remarks somewhat patronisingly on different cultures in South-East Asia. It can be sometimes unsettling to read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shelby

    I wasn't too enthusiastic when I started "River of time". It has been on my pile of books for a while and I thought now would be a good time to read it after I finished "Finding Orwell in Burma" by Emma Larkin. This is a heartbreaking, but well-written memoir of a journalist trying to reconcile with his past in Indo-China. The focus is on his experiences, friendships and his relationship with a French-Vietnamese woman between 1970-1975. The main events of the wars are described well but don't exp I wasn't too enthusiastic when I started "River of time". It has been on my pile of books for a while and I thought now would be a good time to read it after I finished "Finding Orwell in Burma" by Emma Larkin. This is a heartbreaking, but well-written memoir of a journalist trying to reconcile with his past in Indo-China. The focus is on his experiences, friendships and his relationship with a French-Vietnamese woman between 1970-1975. The main events of the wars are described well but don't expect any detailed information about politics, war tactics or political figures. There are disturbing descriptions on atrocities done to civilians and their sufferings. The fate of the Vietnamese refugees that tried to flee to Thailand is particularly gruesome and I had put down the book for a while before I could continue. Cambodia was basically dissolved as a country. It stopped existing and I couldn't understand how the Khmer Rouge were planning on achieving their goals of building a new civilisation by destroying everything, and I mean everything -old customs and way of life, buildings of all kinds, vehicles. No more currency, or books, or education. They killed thousands of educated people (who could have been useful), banished hundreds of thousands to the countryside without any clear instructions on what to do or how to survive. Refused international help. They simply broke the people's will to live. It was such pointless bloodshed, clearly, no new order of any kind could be established after all this monstrosity. And it infuriated me. Nevertheless, a spark has been lit inside me. I want to know more about Indo-China at that period of time in history. So I will find other books to read. There are also two documentaries I watched, which are worth sharing: "Year Zero" by John Pilger and "The Vietnam War" by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick P.S. One thing that annoyed me about the book was that the author kept some of the sentences in French. I guess most people knew the language in the 70s and 80s. But I gave up trying to translate them after a few tries.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sam Romilly

    This is certainly an interesting story. Few people would have experienced all the events in vietnam and cambodia and the author does a great job to document all that he saw. What I disliked about the book was the insight it gave into the mind of someone who would deliberately put himself right in the middle of a war for effectively the thrill of it all. There seemed little sense of horror and disgust - it was more just like a great adventure, and the local people, the victims, were just to be ta This is certainly an interesting story. Few people would have experienced all the events in vietnam and cambodia and the author does a great job to document all that he saw. What I disliked about the book was the insight it gave into the mind of someone who would deliberately put himself right in the middle of a war for effectively the thrill of it all. There seemed little sense of horror and disgust - it was more just like a great adventure, and the local people, the victims, were just to be taken advantage of whilst the western journalists lived their lives of privilege. I did not have a sense that his journalist contributions were written with the idea to give insight or to try and make things better. As a book it was more like an extended diary without too much self-awareness. Certainly worth a read for the first hand accounts of what happened during the fall of Vietnam and Cambodia. Refers to the North Vietnamese massacre of South Vietnamese at Hue which I had not known about - apparently 3,000 or more civilians were killed whilst the town was occupied. On the other hand despite going out with the american troops to battle there is no mention of US force atrocities - which were much more than what was revealed at My Lai. Time will bring out more truths but I fear this book has not unearthed as much as it could - or should.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ellen

    I would not recommend this book at all, unless you enjoy reading bemoning about how the colonial days are gone and those 'pesky natives' tried to run things for themselves, but 'oh what a jolly mess they made'. The book is thoroughly racist, and politically very confused making no distinction between the neo-maoist nationalist force the khmer rouge and the vietcong, for example, seeing them all as 'communist'. He makes no attempt to engage with any of the events he is documenting, and he complet I would not recommend this book at all, unless you enjoy reading bemoning about how the colonial days are gone and those 'pesky natives' tried to run things for themselves, but 'oh what a jolly mess they made'. The book is thoroughly racist, and politically very confused making no distinction between the neo-maoist nationalist force the khmer rouge and the vietcong, for example, seeing them all as 'communist'. He makes no attempt to engage with any of the events he is documenting, and he completely ignores the role of western intervention in the conflicts. Even if you can move past the terrible politics, the book is rather boring and difficult to sympathise with - for example when he is in Phnom Penh at it's fall he spends 5 pages droning on about how terrible it was, despite him and the other white people being inside the air-connitied rooms of the embassy with plenty food, water, even alcoholic drinks and cards, while thousands of Cambodians were kept outside with no shelter, water, or worse of all any sympathy by the author. When reading this book it almost feels like it's a parody of the disgusting attitudes of the imperialist countries towards indo-china ... then you realise that unfortunately these are actually the author's real views. Gross.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Nickymosk

    It was interesting in terms of history, beautifully written, and well-researched. It's a series of sad stories, so if you are looking for something heart-warming or uplifting, I would keep looking. I have to say, you need to remember the time and mindset in which it was written, because by today's standards there are some problematic language terms and ideas relating to race and feminism. So, if you are thinking of using this is class, this would be something to consider talking about before rea It was interesting in terms of history, beautifully written, and well-researched. It's a series of sad stories, so if you are looking for something heart-warming or uplifting, I would keep looking. I have to say, you need to remember the time and mindset in which it was written, because by today's standards there are some problematic language terms and ideas relating to race and feminism. So, if you are thinking of using this is class, this would be something to consider talking about before reading it together. To be more specific, there is a lot of the "submissive, exotic, beautiful" stereotype, and the women and Asian men are often treated as accessories rather than fully realized characters. So, personally I can't fully recommend this book, and many times I had to take a break from it to stop being annoyed and remind myself that he/it shouldn't be judged by today's standards, and to remember it in the context in which it was written. If you can do the same, I'm sure there are many interesting, personal stories that you can learn from.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Loic

    Great account of the terrible and tragic conflict in Vietnam and Cambodia. Jon Swain reports with candor his experience as a journalist in those war torn countries and his witnessing of the horror imposed on local populations. The story nevertheless never struck me as moving or shocking as I anticipated (?), perhaps because of the strong images collected from Indochine wars inspired movies, in particular “The Killing Fields” . I somewhat suspect this had to do with the author distancing himself Great account of the terrible and tragic conflict in Vietnam and Cambodia. Jon Swain reports with candor his experience as a journalist in those war torn countries and his witnessing of the horror imposed on local populations. The story nevertheless never struck me as moving or shocking as I anticipated (?), perhaps because of the strong images collected from Indochine wars inspired movies, in particular “The Killing Fields” . I somewhat suspect this had to do with the author distancing himself from some the atrocities he saw first hand, and the nature of personal choices he made at the time and still questions. I recommend to readers with an appetite for more on these events Francois Bizot “ The Gate”. Bizot is the only westerner know to have survived captivity in red Khmer camps and “ The Gate” is his own account of his life and war in Cambodia.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Akash

    I was very excited when I started out reading this book. While it kept me engaged, and also grew on me; it feels like a missed opportunity. The book dwells a lot on the author's personal experiences, his nostalgia, his laments. And while his admission is recurring, there is still a lot of privilege seeping through. The writing is easy (though the French quotes should have been translated to English). And you can feel his pain in the way he tells you about the war, the destruction of the beautifu I was very excited when I started out reading this book. While it kept me engaged, and also grew on me; it feels like a missed opportunity. The book dwells a lot on the author's personal experiences, his nostalgia, his laments. And while his admission is recurring, there is still a lot of privilege seeping through. The writing is easy (though the French quotes should have been translated to English). And you can feel his pain in the way he tells you about the war, the destruction of the beautiful country and its people, as well as how the various nations left them high and dry. But the author hasn't done much in giving a context or background for why it all happened. You still don't know much about the history, or the culture, or the geography, or what the future holds for the Indo-China people. The book was a great journey in time, but you end up none the wiser.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Pearl

    An absolutely harrowing yet beautiful account of Indochina during the Vietnam War and the aftermath. Reading it felt like reading a love letter to the region, yet a love letter that is so full of heartbreak and sorrow as well. I recently went to Loas and Cambodia so I can understand why the author fell in love with both countries even in their war torn state. One minute he will be getting a scoop, the next a fight for his life along with other journalist during the fall of Phnom Pehn. I was ench An absolutely harrowing yet beautiful account of Indochina during the Vietnam War and the aftermath. Reading it felt like reading a love letter to the region, yet a love letter that is so full of heartbreak and sorrow as well. I recently went to Loas and Cambodia so I can understand why the author fell in love with both countries even in their war torn state. One minute he will be getting a scoop, the next a fight for his life along with other journalist during the fall of Phnom Pehn. I was enchanted by the texts but was also on the edge of my seat in certain parts because of the risks and uncertainty surrounding the war. This one is definitely a favorite for sure.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nicky Shellens

    This is a brutal uncovering of the recent history of Vietnam and Cambodia seen through the eyes of a young and enthusiastic Western journalist. Unashamedly sentimental in parts, Swain describes his love for the region and bears witness to some of the atrocities committed during the Vietnan war and the early days of the Khmer Rouge regime both through first hand and anecdotal accounts. Flawlessly written, the narrative never loses its vividness or humanity - despite the recognition that as a priv This is a brutal uncovering of the recent history of Vietnam and Cambodia seen through the eyes of a young and enthusiastic Western journalist. Unashamedly sentimental in parts, Swain describes his love for the region and bears witness to some of the atrocities committed during the Vietnan war and the early days of the Khmer Rouge regime both through first hand and anecdotal accounts. Flawlessly written, the narrative never loses its vividness or humanity - despite the recognition that as a privileged foreigner Swain's reality was very different from that of the local people - and provides a horrifying yet compelling account of these cruel times.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Caroline

    Loved and hated. Engaging and well written but misogynistic and anti women. Calls women journalists girls. Perpetuates the virgin whore myth. Describes shamelessly how he and his ilk routinely visit prostitutes to help them cope with the stress of war reporting and to momentarily forget the suffering of the Cambodian and Vietnamese people. He is fact contributing to this misery and then proceeds to often use the word whore. He’s like a disgusting old uncle who pinches your ass. This would be gre Loved and hated. Engaging and well written but misogynistic and anti women. Calls women journalists girls. Perpetuates the virgin whore myth. Describes shamelessly how he and his ilk routinely visit prostitutes to help them cope with the stress of war reporting and to momentarily forget the suffering of the Cambodian and Vietnamese people. He is fact contributing to this misery and then proceeds to often use the word whore. He’s like a disgusting old uncle who pinches your ass. This would be great book the analyze in journalism class to identify systematic sexism in journalism.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mary Ann

    Picked up River of Time while in Cambodia. Fast-paced, enthralling and not a book to be put down, it filled in much of the tragic story of Cambodia for me through the eyes of journalist and author, Jon Swain. Followed it up with watching Swain in "The Killing Fields". Must read for all those interested in Southeast Asia, Indo-China history and the turbulent times of the war in Vietnam and the tragedy of Pol Pot regime's reign in Cambodia. Picked up River of Time while in Cambodia. Fast-paced, enthralling and not a book to be put down, it filled in much of the tragic story of Cambodia for me through the eyes of journalist and author, Jon Swain. Followed it up with watching Swain in "The Killing Fields". Must read for all those interested in Southeast Asia, Indo-China history and the turbulent times of the war in Vietnam and the tragedy of Pol Pot regime's reign in Cambodia.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ian Buckley

    Very well-written account of a pocket of life in Indo-China through the 1970s instability. Sometimes a very sad and horrific account of the awful happenings at this time, especially in Cambodia, but honest and interesting throughout. Highly recommend this to everyone to learn a little more about this period of history. It’s inspired me to read more about it all. Thank you

  23. 4 out of 5

    alison savage

    A Beautiful reminder of halcyon days Like Jon Swain I knew Cambodia before "the killing fields" and as a teacher I also worked with some of the Boat People from Vietnam. This book paints such a heartbreaking picture of those countries before modern politics changed them for ever. Congratulations on capturing that lost essence. A Beautiful reminder of halcyon days Like Jon Swain I knew Cambodia before "the killing fields" and as a teacher I also worked with some of the Boat People from Vietnam. This book paints such a heartbreaking picture of those countries before modern politics changed them for ever. Congratulations on capturing that lost essence.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Les Dangerfield

    A journalist's account of the horrors of the final phase of the war in Vietnam and of the Khmer Rouge atrocities in Cambodia. Depressing how the history of man's inhumanity to man repeats itself in endless circles. A journalist's account of the horrors of the final phase of the war in Vietnam and of the Khmer Rouge atrocities in Cambodia. Depressing how the history of man's inhumanity to man repeats itself in endless circles.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Barrett

    Holy shit this book was powerful. Beautifully written love letter/requiem to Vietnam and Cambodia and his own shocking experiences during the wars. Yes, its a bit orientalist with lots of descriptions of 'exotic' landscapes but the writing is so damn good and I polished it off in 2 sittings. Holy shit this book was powerful. Beautifully written love letter/requiem to Vietnam and Cambodia and his own shocking experiences during the wars. Yes, its a bit orientalist with lots of descriptions of 'exotic' landscapes but the writing is so damn good and I polished it off in 2 sittings.

  26. 5 out of 5

    J C Alcock

    Very engaging book. I knew about the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia but not in great detail. Tbis book certainly gives your a graphic detail of the suffering . Horrific how humans can treat fellow human beings. A well written and engaging book

  27. 5 out of 5

    Karin

    Harrowing yet beautiful account of Cambodia & Vietnam and the wars ravaging Indochina in the 1970s. Harrowing in its honest and brutal descriptions of war and beautiful in its love for this part of the world.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Prince Arora

    I read this book whilst in Vietnam, given to me by a friend, and it greatly effects the atmosphere the book creates. It's devastatingly shocking and sad, yet an eye-opening read. I read this book whilst in Vietnam, given to me by a friend, and it greatly effects the atmosphere the book creates. It's devastatingly shocking and sad, yet an eye-opening read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Wang Hesper

    There is a sad story behind every smile...

  30. 5 out of 5

    Yanhong Zhang

    Quite intense...reflective...and beautiful prose which is definitely a plus.

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