Tuoi tho du doi (quick translate: Bizzare childhood) is a novel written by Phung Quan. The novel was published in 1988 and recieved the state prized for literature and art in 2007, therefore became one of Phung Quan most popular works. The book was made into a movie in 1990. Phung Quan was born in 1932, Thua Thien Hue. In 1945, he joined the National guard (he was 13 at the time) as a scout soldier in the 101st regiment (also known as the Tran Cao Van regiment). He was best known for his first work “Vuot Con Dao” (1955) and “Tuoi tho du doi” (1988). The novel “Tuoi tho du doi” revolves around the combat life and sacrifice of 13- and 14-year-old boys in the ranks of the youth scout squad of the 101st regiment (also known as the Tran Cao Van regiment). Each teenagers joined the squad in a different way. Like Ve who was saved when the French attacked the circus he was working in, or Tu who snuck onto a train full of soldiers after hearing them sing:”Xep but nghieng len duong tranh dau” (quick translate: put pens away and go fighting)…
Mung-one of the main character joined the squad in a really funny way. He snuck into the teenagers line when they were busy looking their leader demonstrating how to dive. The leader then spotted him and asked him to leave, but he didn’t. Because no one in the squad wanted to take a shot to dive so Mung volunteered. He said that if he could dive perfectly, he will be the new member of the squad, the captain agreed. And Mung took a dive perfectly, the captain let him join the squad. Meanwhile, his mother was worried finding him, and she thought that he must have been drowned. After joining the squad, Mung usually climb onto trees at midnight. Not long until Vinh-Mung’s team monitor found out his friend’s weird act. He thought that Mung was scared of death and was trying to escape, so he reported it to the captain. After asking Mung question about the weird act, everyone knows that the real reason why Mung joined the squad. He joined because he found out that in this area there were two plants that he needed to make medicines for his mother. Mung came from a poor family. He lived with his mother who suffered severe asthma. One day, the old man in his village told him that if he could find a specific type of plant, he could cure his mother’s asthma. After the battle on the C front, the squad moved to a new bass in Hoa My. At the time Mung was so skinny but always enthusiastic about learning how to read, everyone called him “the studious skeleton”. One day, Kim-a scout that used to work in Mung’s squad came back. A few months ago, Kim was captured by the French, and now he came back as a spy working for the French. Mung and Kim became bestfriend later on. One day, when Kim told Mung to go buy some food, he was actually tricking him so he could take a picture of the captain’s secret map-the map of the base. When Mung returned, he noticed that Kim have left, he followed Kim and found lut that Kim was a betrayer. He risk his life smaking Kim’s camera and got caught by the French. A few days later, Mung came back from being captured, but instead of waving at him, everyone pointed guns at him. Turned out that he was suspected to be a betrayer beside Kim. They locked him in a cage. When Mung’s mother finally found him, she was shocked, unbelieve that her son is a betrayer. She passed in shock and disappointment. Mung chased the people who were going to burry his mother. He went across an observatory, which he found his friends dead and the moribunding captain. Before passing, the captain said that Mung needs to go talk with the big captain to let him know wether it’s the perfect time to detonated the mines. With the help of Mung, many enemies were killed and that slow the move of the enemy. Unfortunately, Mung lost too much blood so he also passed. Before going to a new military bass, the soldiers burried people who were dead. Mung was burried next to his mother and people no longer suspect him to be a traitor. The mountain where Mung and his mother got burried never had a name, so after that they named the mountain: Nui-Me-Con-Em-Mung (quick translate: Mung’s mother and Mung mountain). The story ends there.
The story that I have told isn’t the full story, there are much and much more about the early life as a scout of the teenagers. But what makes this book special? Reading this book, you will look at the war in a teenage perspective. Maybe you have read many books about wars like soldiers memoir but those were written by adults and they are adult’s perspective. Also, this is about patriotism of 13-14 years old teenagers. They come from different family circumstances, some come from a wealthy family, some come from a poor family, and some don’t even have a family! But they fight until they cannot. Most worth mentioning about Vinh sacrifice. He sacrificed himself, strapped to the lightning rod of the enemy’s building, in order to send signals for our soldiers to burn down the enemy’s arsenal.
This is an 8 chapters novel, really worth reading. The book tells us how life under the war, really funny but really sad at the same time. Also the book smells good (mine is really good). So I give it a solid 4.5/10!!!!!