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The following is reblogged from Angie Ibarra’s post at http://momentsinyourlife.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/village-teacher-by-neihtn-a-glimpse-of-the-book/

Village Teacher

We are all students of life and we are constantly learning from people that we meet, from things that we see, from news that we hear, and from books that we read. Village Teacher gave me a good lesson.

Set in the [last] years of the 19th century in Vietnam. A brilliant and young village teacher from the far north named Lê Duy Tâm came to the Imperial City of Huế. His purpose – along with many young men from all over Vietnam – was to take the final examinations that will enable him to become a mandarin. The Vietnamese mandarins are people who went through rigorous scholastic training and examinations to be able to join the élite ranks of society. By becoming one, it was considered a lifetime achievement and an honor that came with privileges.

However, this was a time of Vietnam’s troubled history where many forces are fighting to take control of the country. From the clans and royalists, the anti-colonial people, the rebels, and the French that wants to control the country. It was a difficult time when people have different needs and are doing anything they can to hold on to power.

Tâm was able to finish the exams well, so while waiting for the results of the examinations, he met a lovely young woman in a knight-in-shining armor way. Her name is Giang, she turned out to be a half-French daughter of a French Naval officer who is the right-hand of a powerful French general. She looked Vietnamese in appearance except for her captivating blue eyes which mesmerized Tâm.

This started a love story that was wonderful at first. Tâm was respectfully accepted by Giang’s family because he was a brilliant young man on his way to becoming a powerful mandarin. However, with Tâm’s association with a French family, he became a target of unfair accusations. The love story became filled with hardships. From unhappy parents, conniving ministers, marriage proposals, prisons and murder. I started to root for their love story and felt like one of the characters who wants to help them. After all the intensity and fast paced events, their story had to make a brief pause.

Then I started reading about history. It was such an eye opener, a great background for this story. I asked myself if I was in that time, how I would feel if my country is being torn apart by so many forces that want to control it. Some had good intentions; some wanted to retain their own status for greed and power.

Tâm had to return to his village to escape unfair accusations and thinking that this would make Giang safe. However, Giang became ill and refused to become her normal self again. Tâm continued to be the village teacher after his father – the former village teacher- passed away. He started teaching the new script and writing text that uses the alphabet which Giang taught him. He became focused on spreading education and knowledge to his students and to the whole village. Meanwhile, even at his small village, woes did not escape him. Many events unfolded…

What would happen next? Will Giang and Tâm be reunited? Is knowledge and education the path to enlightenment and understanding?

The answers would be revealed in such a wonderfully paced, heart warming and lovely book that was an easy read right from the start.

I have been to Vietnam, but I did not fully understand the history and background of what happened in the country. I had to read carefully and imagine the setting and the story. However, after reading the first chapter, the pages flew by. I was drawn by the compelling love story, the rich historical and scholastic background, and the ideas that were presented by the author. The conflicting needs of each character were used brilliantly to create a story that is filled with happenings but did not make it drag. I love how I learned so much about the history of Vietnam and how knowledge and education is the only way to defeat ignorance and bigotry. It shows the importance of learning and the author’s appreciation of the Vietnamese language. It is a book that is charming in its own way and as I read it, I could imagine the setting clearly by the use of Neihtn’s words. Vietnam was forged by its history and by its people. It’s a country with beautiful places and interesting people. The story gave me a clearer image, and a lesson of how it came to be. Also, I am looking forward to returning to Vietnam!

You can check out more about Neihtn here and the book is available here.