The Nam Legacy by Carole Brungar
A novel with the Vietnam War at its core, The Nam Legacy follows the love affair between Evelyn Hallet and Jack Coles. Set mostly in New Zealand during the 60s and 70s, the novel moves between rural life and the city lights of Auckland, before the action moves to Vietnam. Evelyn is a beautiful girl with a stunning voice, and even though they get engaged, Jack doesn’t want to hold her back or stand in her way of pursuing a successful singing career. He keeps himself busy on the farm and with his rugby, but eventually, Evelyn’s long absences to Auckland start taking their toll, and in a moment that will change everyone’s lives, Jack signs up to go to Vietnam.
Jack serves for 18 months in Vietnam, and the action moves to this part of the world. When he finally returns home, he is a changed, damaged man. Will Evelyn and Jack’s relationship survive the traumas of the Vietnam War?
The Nam Legacy is a book that examines post-traumatic stress and the Vietnam conflict, and it is clear the author has done much research to write this novel. When the author moves the action to Vietnam, the tension goes up many notches. Carole captures the 60s and 70s period well, and Evelyn and Jack are both well-drawn characters. I particularly enjoyed following Evelyn’s career as a successful singer, and these scenes provided many enjoyable moments to the book. Jack’s decisions to join the war, and then his actions in Vietnam at times didn’t feel plausible, but I guess this was the author’s intent. Young men went off to this war without fully considering what the implications were, and once over there, may have done things that would appear to be out of character. You will need to read the book to the end to see if Evelyn and Jack’s love survives, but The Nam Legacy certainly lives up to its title in a book that goes beyond the Vietnam conflict to explore the ongoing legacy of war, long after the conflict has ended.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan