In adherence to the aphorism that the “fruit falls not far from the tree,” Christie Dickason begins this first novel with an examination of the lives of her heroine’s parents. Luoc, the son of a village leader killed by the French colonial government, resolves to avenge his father’s death by destroying “the French.” In pursuit of this rather grandiose objective, he courts and marries Ariane, the daughter of a provincial French chemist. In an attempt to persuade his daughter not to enter the convent, Ariane’s father had arranged for her to become a governess to the daughter of a French colonial official based in Saigon. The marriage is unsuccessful, but the union does produce a daughter, Nina.
Nina is reared in the fashion of the French colonial overlords, yet she is nevertheless constantly reminded of her half-caste status. Still, this most dependent of women, through a series of personal disasters, becomes a confident and assertive individual who succeeds in seizing control of her destiny and thereby establishing a place for herself in a land torn by war and civil disorder.
This first novel purports to draw heavily upon the author’s own experiences in Southeast Asia before the start of the Vietnam War, and it possesses an impressive degree of verisimilitude. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that INDOCHINE will actually “enhance the understanding of the culture and history of Vietnam.” This literary combination of THE PERILS OF PAULINE and DALLAS is more a “page-turner” than a historical tour de force. Although Dickason cannot be compared to James Clavell, a good “page-turner” is not to be scorned, and with the current interest in the Vietnam War this work may enjoy a certain amount of success.