Book Club: Viet Thanh Nguyen shares his new spy story

Viet Thanh Nguyen will share insights on The Committed for LA Times‘ March Bookclub event.

Viet Thanh Nguyen stands on a brick path surrounded by plants.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s debut novel, “The Sympathizer,” introduced us to the “man of two faces and two minds,” a double agent living in Los Angeles after the fall of Saigon.

Nguyen’s anonymous spy returns this week in “The Committed,” with a new life and adventures set in Paris. Gangsters, drug dealing, turf wars and shootouts propel hairpin plot twists in this sequel published Tuesday. But beneath the thriller lies an ambitious novel about history, politics and revolution.

“I wasn’t done with his story,” Nguyen told writer Agatha French. “I’m very cognizant of the fact that people read ‘The Sympathizer’ as a Vietnam War novel and me as a Vietnamese American writing about the Vietnam War.”

The sequel, he says, allowed him “to expand upon what I’ve always felt, which is that ‘The Sympathizer’ is not only a Vietnam War novel but a novel about race and colonialism.”

Nguyen, a USC professor and Pulitzer Prize winner, joins the Los Angeles Times Book Club on March 10 for a conversation with Times culture columnist Carolina A. Miranda.

The book talk starts at 7 p.m. Pacific and will be livestreaming on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Sign up on Eventbrite.

Although “The Committed” is a sequel, French notes, it doesn’t read like one. “I never had the sense that something was being ‘recapped’ in a heavy-handed way, but everything you really need to enjoy the story is on the page,” she says. “I obviously think everyone should read the first book first — it’s so good, why wouldn’t you? — but ‘The Committed’ really holds its own, and not just as a sequel.”

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