Book Title: Mission in Paris 1990
Author: Bill Pearl
Published: 2nd February, 2021.
Publisher: Fifty Years Late Publishing
Rating: 4/5 Stars
The year is 1990. Vietnam and America have not yet made peace. Vietnam is freshly wounded from fighting border wars with China and on the eve of becoming a market economy. The first bombing of the World Trade Center is three years away, so America is not yet awake to the dangers of terrorism. Vietnam and America begin to recognize the importance of ending their differences.
Mission in Paris 1990 is the story of how an American media tycoon, Robert Samberg, whose youth in 1968 tied him to Vietnam’s future, is recruited to serve his country, never expecting that a mission to explore political reconciliation would lead him to a path of personal reconciliation.
On the eve of his greatest business triumph, he rediscovers My Hanh, a long-lost love from Vietnam, and learns they have a son. Robert’s life is upended in this tale about the enduring strength of love and the power of forgiveness.
This novel, set during the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Vietnam, explores reconciliation among people and nations. It also tells a powerful love story – between a man and a woman as well as between a father and a son.
Review and My Thoughts
Mission in Paris, 1990, is the first book I read this year. From the details I’ve laid out above, it was published just last year and I had the privilege of getting a copy from Cristina who connected me with Bill, the author, to read and review the book. From the synopsis I could tell I was going to learn a thing or two from the book.
Mission in Paris, 1990, for me, started out slowly which was a bit confusing because it’s just a hundred and fifty nine pages and I was hoping we’d be jumping right into the action in the first page.
So to say, the book began to pick pace in the second chapter. While reading, I suddenly became wary of the main character, Robert. He’s a (radio) business tycoon who hardly thinks about anybody else but himself and it was starting to get on my nerves.
I don’t want to give away any major spoilers but liking Robert wasn’t easy for me. But, as I continued to read on, I started to understand him better.
Robert is a man who goes through great lengths to achieve what he wants and while he was still stuck in love with a Vietnamese woman from his past, from when he was college student in Paris, it didn’t stop him from focusing on his dreams, which should I mention, were mostly fueled by a need to make his father feel bad for breaking a promise.
As one event led to another, he was drawn back to his past and in a bid to save himself and his business, got to meet his old lover. I am not well versed in the Vietnamese culture but reading about the female protagonist, My Hanh, and getting a glimpse into her life, especially her dreams and aspirations was enlightening.
Her struggles as a Vietnamese woman felt real and made me feel seen as most of the things she was going through is something that many women in parts of the world still face today. Although she was fearless and assertive when necessary, just like Robert, she also had her flaws.
As the old lovers reunited, each with their own’s country goals in mind, we follow them as they try to navigate what’s left of their relationship.
To be honest, I didn’t agree to read the book for the romance or anything like that, because let me tell you, the romance was there but it wasn’t all over the place. I read it because there was supposedly going to be a father-son issue that needed resolving.
I’ve been recently consuming media content of estranged family members getting along after so many years so seeing it in the book was a nice treat for me. The estranged father-son dynamic, between 3 generations, might I add, was beautifully written. After reading the book, I could understand why.
Just like the synopsis says, love and forgiveness is a major theme in the book and as I said, I wasn’t there for the love for part. The forgiveness part though wasn’t just about the sons and their fathers nor the lovers, it was also about forgiving one’s self. I think in our world today, forgiving ourselves is something we tend to overlook so easily.
I like that something as small but meaningful as that was included.
Misunderstanding plays a lot in the fall out of any relationship and this book highlighted that. There’s so much that happens behind the scenes of our friends, family or lovers’ lives that we’re not aware of and sometimes, when things get too hot for them to handle, they go about it the wrong way and misunderstanding ensues.
Politics is also another major theme in the book and since it’s set in the 90s, I was surprised at how painfully honest most of it was. The war between Vietnam and America seems to be one of the wars that left so many people scarred and while I haven’t read up much on it, I’d tell that Mission in Paris, 1990, executed that part of the book so well.
Most characters got their own inner monologue which helped understand them better and empathize with them as they weren’t so perfect. They were just wounded people trying to navigate life, doing their best to stay sane.
I’d say I’m the kind of person that would want to keep my distance from someone who didn’t see things the same way I do but a few parts of the book kind of encouraged me try to understand why someone else would think a certain way.
I think communication and listening to comprehend, is important and while we may not always agree with someone over something, we should try to see where they’re coming from.
What I appreciated most about the book however, was Robert’s point of view. His inner monologue seemed far different from the way he spoke and communicated. At first, I was confused about it and found it odd that he wasn’t, shall I say, more sophisticated in his head? Especially since he is a much older adult but then I realized that I am also an adult whose inner thoughts are just like speaking to a five year old and that felt understandable and less odd.
I’d say it was off-putting for me the first time because writers in other books would show their character’s thoughts in a much sophisticated manner and while I know it’s fiction, a little bit of reality doesn’t hurt.
Another thing I loved more than anything is how flawed the characters are. Most of the characters weren’t book perfect and it made them understandable and relatable, although annoying at times but that’s what any human is like. Their character growth was another favorite highlight of the book.
Mission in Paris, 1990, is a thriller-fiction novel so if you are up for something that will have you flipping the pages until you’re done, do pick it up.
P.S. I used to be a little obsessed with reading history and having general knowledge of past events when I was younger but I grew up and life got busy. Life is still busy but Mission in Paris, 1990, has made me want to get back into that habit because I realized that there’s a lot I don’t know but would want to know.
Again, this book is filled with politics, especially since the plot is set around after events of the war between Vietnam and the United States, so I’d encourage you to read it with an open mind and try to do your research if you get confused about anything and that you should remember most of all, that it is fiction.
You can order the book on Bill’s website, here, and I hope you find it interesting as I did.
Thanks for reading.
Stay safe and healthy.