Book review: The Girl in the Picture by Denise Chong…

I had to wait until today (next day) to be able to come back to this and write a review. Why? Because I was an emotional wreck at the end of it. I don’t think I’ve ever been so wrung out and emotionally bereft at the end of a book before now.
On 8th June 1972, nine year old Kim Phuc, severely burned by napalm, ran naked and screaming from her destroyed village and into the eyes of history. Her outstretched, burnt arms and the scream of pain captured on her lips haunted a generation and helped turn public opinion against the Vietnam war. This book is the story of how that photograph came to be, but more importantly what happened to Kim Phuc after it was taken – years of painful rehabilitation and manipulation by a Communist regime before escaping to a new life of freedom in the West. The Girl in the Picture is a spellbinding story of one casualty of war who beat the odds to survive and who also possessed the amazing strength of character to truly forgive those who had inflicted suffering upon her.
The book starts off with Kim and her husband Toan realising that after some anonymity in Canada, British journalists had tracked her down. She decided bravely to accept advice and get an agent to deal with the press.
We are then taken back in time to Trang Bang, the South Vietnamese village that Kim Phuc and her family come from. Denise Chong tells us the story of Kim’s background very thoroughly indeed. 
Then we have the horror of the napalm attack and it’s aftermath. The treatment that Kim Phuc has to endure brings tears to the eyes of all but the harshest of readers. Once she is eventually discharged from hospital, her ordeal is not over. She has regular headaches and severe pain to cope with on a frequent basis.
The years move by and Kim Phuc graduated high school and eventually makes it into university. Yet her studying is blighted by the Communist regime, who use her as a propaganda tool. Eventually she is sent to Cuba to study, and it is there she sees what her life has become. There she forms her plans for escape to the West.
You are taken on an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows as you follow Kim’s journey. Denise Chong has treated this story with reverence and respect. I felt sad and elated in equal measure. This book is a five star must read!

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