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Siam: Or the Woman Who Shot a Man

Siam: Or the Woman Who Shot a Man by Lily Tuck
18 reviews (1999) (192p)
PEN/Faulkner Award Finalist

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Book Description
"A Joan Didionesque heroine . . . in Graham Greene's Far East . . . a telling portrait of a woman, a marriage, and a culture."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Claire, the young bride of a government contractor, arrives in Bangkok with her husband on March 9, 1967, the day U.S. planes begin bombing runs on North Vietnam. At a dinner party, she meets and befriends Jim Thompson, the real-life American entrepreneur and founder of the Thai Silk Company. Weeks later, on Easter Sunday, Thompson vanishes without a trace in the Thai highlands. As the political implications of Thompson's disappearance surface, Claire becomes increasingly obsessed with his fate. Her quest into what happened, fueled by the longing and loneliness she feels in an exotic land marked by growing unrest, leads to a tragic truth that becomes a metaphor for two cultures in collision. Written in powerful, arresting prose, this taut suspense novel further establishes Lily Tuck as a major voice in literary fiction.

"Swift, sharp, and elegant . . . Reading Siam is like having your senses brushed by silk."--John Casey

2000 PEN/Faulkner Award Nominee Review
In Lily Tuck's Siam, the year is 1967 and 25-year-old Claire has come to Bangkok with her brand-new husband, a military advisor. When they first met, James had described Thailand as "not a bad place to live. Everyone's so friendly, everyone's always smiling. And you should see my house--hot and cold running servants, a pool, a garden..." But upon arrival in this exotic locale--which her guidebook, too, extols as the "Venice of the East"--Claire discovers dead dogs floating in the canals, green slime growing on the surface of the pool, and the natives polite but distant. The one person she feels an instant bond with is Jim Thompson, an American silk entrepreneur she encounters at a party. But immediately afterward, Thompson disappears during a trip to the Cameron Highlands, and Claire becomes obsessed with discovering what happened to him.

Siam is a work of fiction. Jim Thompson, however, was an actual person whose disappearance in Thailand has never been solved. Tuck uses this real-life mystery to illuminate her fictional characters' relationships and motivations. It's clear from the first chapter that Claire is a young woman without a solid sense of self. She is swept quite literally off her feet and into bed within hours of first meeting James, and a good deal of what happens to her from that point on seems to occur without her active participation or consent:

Several times a day Claire raised her skirt, dropped her pants. Her fingers, too, learned to unzip, to unbutton with the swiftness and skill of a lacemaker. It was not how Claire had imagined it, but there was hardly time for anything else.
Though she tries hard to be a "good guest" in Thailand, attempting to learn the language and history of her new home, she is never truly at ease among the people. Claire's fixation on the fate of a man she met only once grows in direct proportion to her feelings of loneliness and alienation. Meanwhile, America's escalating role in the Vietnam War parallels her increasing suspicion of everyone around her, even her husband--and soon the conditions are ripe for tragedy. Tuck weaves this intricate web of fact and fiction, reality and delusion, with an assured hand and prose that seems simpler than it actually is. She captures to perfection the disorientation of strangers in a strange land, the insularity of expatriate communities, and the gulf that yawns between privileged foreigners and the people they live among. Siam, then, is both a compelling drama and a profound meditation on the political and the personal. --Sheila Bright

Other Award Winning Books by Lily Tuck
I Married You for Happiness by Lily Tuck
46 reviews (2011) (p) (PW Fiction)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's page
The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck
44 reviews (2004) (272p) (NBA) (NBA)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's page

Lily Tuck Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 3  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 2  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 0  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 0  
National Book Award Wins 2 The News from Paraguay · The News from Paraguay ·  
National Book Award Nominations 2 The News from Paraguay · The News from Paraguay ·  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 1 Siam: Or the Woman Who Shot a Man ·  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award


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