Deep in the forested Vietnamese island of Cat Bac, a jungle seethes with the irrepressible force of its own history. Haunted by agonies of temptation and frustration, "the women on the island" are prisoners of the power of the place, the power of the past, the power of desire and constraint. Yet like the jungle of jackfruit trees and bamboo itself, desire is a force that cannot be subdued.
This novel illuminates the plight of a generation of men and women in post-war Vietnam. It explores issues of family and gender and charts Vietnam's effort to redefine its relationship to its past and future. Popular writer Ho Anh Thai brings into view the struggle of women who survived their service during the war years. Like male veterans in America and Vietnam, they returned to a society which they had defended, but which in many ways had no place for them. By confronting these issues, Ho Anh Thai has contributed to the debate in Vietnam over the rights of unmarried women with children. Through the lens of this particular time and place, The Women on the Island probes the timeless question of how we find ways to live in harmony with the tangled and contradictory compulsions of our own souls.