After visiting Vietnam earlier in the month, I decided to pick up a copy of Graham Greene's 'The Quiet American', set in Saigon in the early fifties at the time of the Indochina war, when the Vietminh were fighting the French colonial powers.
The novel focuses around the relationship between the three main protagonists, Fowler, a middle-aged British ex-pat journalist who refuses to get involved, Pyle, a young idealistic American who wants to help bring democracy to Vietnam, and the woman they both love, Phuong.
Greene does a fantastic job of painting a picture of the Vietnam of that era, as well as creating the mood of ex-pat life. In addition, the characters are very real and believable, Fowler, the cynic, Pyle the seemingly innocent idealist and Phuong, the quiet pragmatist.
As well as the fact that Greene is a superb story-teller, the different themes of a love triangle, intervention vs. non-intervention, idealism vs. realism and old world colonialism vs. new world US foreign policy all contribute to make this a book that you will want to come back to again and again.