Ho Chi Minh: A Life - William J. Duiker

A very detailed look into the life and times of one of the most influential- although often overlooked and underrated- individuals of the twentieth century. Sadly, it is not as personal as I had hoped it would be; by this, I mean that it offered much less a description of his personal life, as in interests, activities, etc. as it did the overarching political situation facing Ho Chi Minh in his struggle to both free and unite Vietnam. However, this disappointment may be unavoidable; sources on Ho Chi Minh's life are often lacking, and when in existence, are often very biased, particularly considering the near deified status he has been given in Vietnam, where many of the surviving records exist. After reading this book, I tend to think that Ho Chi Minh may have liked it this way. He would have preferred to have himself remembered less as an individual than as a symbol of communism and Vietnamese nationalism; in other words, that people would not look at him, but would look instead at the movements and beliefs that he stood for. In the end, I think Ho Chi Minh was a complex and misunderstood man. He was not a radical communist as many of his critics insist; but neither was he entirely a nationalist who merely embraced communism out of convenience. The main driving force in his life, however, was most definitely nationalistic. Although he was certainly no saint, as the Vietnamese government makes him out to be, he was certainly not the opposite either. There is much to respect in Ho Chi Minh; a man who gave everything in the cause of his country's freedom and unification. That is how Ho Chi Minh should be remembered- a flawed man, yet with much to respect. Overall, a very good read.