A Model American (2 stars)

Elsie Burch Donald

A Model American (Doubleday)


In Elsie Burch Donald’s study of US foreign policy in 1970s Cambodia, there is little doubt the author is inviting parallels with the current crusade for democracy in the Middle East. To this end she has conjured a gaggle of debating protagonists to inform the reader of contemporaneous opinion according to the learned, post-colonialist Europe, brash baby-boomer Republicans and simple land-working, progressive political natives.

The tale of two self-made wealthy Americans being downed in the jungles of Cambodia shortly before Kissinger and Nixon’s bombing brought the country into the Vietnam war is a diverting and well-intentioned one, but whose developments prove rather too convenient, with a plot that is laboriously padded out with patronising political musings. Donald’s characters fall marginally short of stereotype and aren’t easy to care about, with the book itself all too easy to put down.

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