Village Teacher by Neihtn, who also writes as Nguyen Trong Hien, is a well-written novel set in Vietnam in the late 19th or early 20th century while Vietnam was under French colonization. Teacher Tâm has traveled to the Imperial City of Hue to take the national examinations, challenging tests that help the country choose its leaders. He meets Giang, the daughter of a powerful Frenchman and a wealthy Vietnamese woman. The teacher becomes the student as Giang begins teaching him to write Vietnamese in Romanized script without using the Chinese characters. Outside forces begin to intervene in Tâm’s life in many ways, and the reader is taken on a journey through Vietnamese history, language, and customs as the Village Teacher and those who love him fight for his life and his rights.
This is such a beautiful historical love story. The author is an expert in Vietnamese history and I learned so much in this book. The struggles of Teacher Tâm are struggles that are being repeated even today as the wealthy and powerful try to hold down those of lesser means, especially the smart and talented. Over and over again we see in this book how some of the rich and powerful will use any means to try and destroy anyone who they believe threatens their total control. The love story is beautiful, and the reader gets a master class in Vietnamese history, language, and culture. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the history of Vietnam or anyone who just wants to read a well-written historical love story.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nguyễn Trọng Hiền is originally from Vietnam. In the United States, he is known as Hien Nguyen, or Hien T. Nguyen. neihtn is his Vietnamese first name (Hien) and initials, spelled backward. Why backward? One reason is to indicate that he now lives on the opposite side of the world from where he was born and spent over two decades of his life.
Hein wrote Village Teacher at night and on weekends over four years while he worked a full-time job. He is now retired and spends his time writing and taking photographs of birds, wildlife, flowers and landscapes. He posts the photos on his blog, Village Teacher. He also published another novel, The Siege of An Loc, in 2020.