Book Review: Message From Nam By Danielle Steel


This is a review of another novel from my aunt’s big collection of paperbacks.

First published in 1991, Message From Nam follows Paxton Andrews as she grows up in the 1960s.  She goes from being an idealistic, Kennedy-inspired teenager in Savannah, Georgia to being a hardened and brave war correspondent in Vietnam.  Along the way, she defies the wishes of her wealthy family, who would rather that she live in a conventional life in Georgia.  She goes to college, she protests the war, and she eventually even gets to write a weekly column about the war and how it is effecting both the combatants and the folks back home.  She also falls in love with several different men, the majority of whom end up dying in Vietnam.  I guess that’s one of the dangers that you run into when you’re a war correspondent.  Eventually, the great love of her life also disappears in Vietnam.  Is he dead or is he just waiting for Paxton to come and find him?

So, I don’t know about you but when I think of an American author who could deftly capture the intricacies of American foreign policy and the turmoil of the late 60s and the early 70s, Danielle Steel is not necessarily the first name that comes to mind.  Steel fills the book with historical detail but it all feels a bit rudimentary.  Naturally, the book opens on the day of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and, of course, there are references to all of the other big events of the 60s but the book’s examination of those events don’t go much deeper than acknowledging that they happened and that Paxton was upset about some of them.  Even when Paxton goes to Vietnam, it’s an experience that’s pretty much interchangeable with what the reader might expect to see if they were watching a movie about Vietnam as opposed to reading a book about it.  There are no details that make the reader pause and think, “I bet that’s what it was really like.”  Throughout the copy of the book that I read, Steel continually referred to Vietnam as being “Viet Nam.”  Admittedly, I usually make the same mistake before autocorrect jumps in to help me out but, then again, I’ve also never written a novel about being a war correspondent in Vietnam.

I suppose Message From Nam was Steel’s attempt to show that she could write a novel that didn’t take place in a world of glamorous and glitzy rich people but the fact of the matter is that Paxton still comes from a rich family and nearly every man that she meets falls in love with her so this really isn’t that much different from a typical Danielle Steel novel.  Indeed, the novel could use a little glamour and glitz.  To be honest, the book works best when Steel stop trying to make history come to life in all of its gritty reality and instead, just embraces the melodrama.  When the book focuses on people declaring their undying love right before tragedy ensues, it works just fine.  Seriously, there’s nothing wrong with being a good romance novelist.

2 responses to “Book Review: Message From Nam By Danielle Steel

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 7/25/22 — 7/31/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

  2. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 8/1/22 — 8/7/22 | Through the Shattered Lens

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