Category Archives: Global reading challenge

Global Reading Challenge ~ Country # 158) Sierra Leone

A Long Way Gone: The True Story of a Child SoldierI first heard of Ishmael Beah on Biblioglobal’s blog, who is also doing the Global reading challenge (Though she is way ahead of me, lol). I had happened to stumble across her blog, saw A Long Way Gone & knew that this was a story that I too wanted to read. (at the time I didn’t read her post about the book because I didn’t want to take the chance of ruining anything)

I have to admit that I came away from reading A Long Way Gone feeling uncomfortable & somewhat unsettled, but not for the right reasons. This should be a story which shocks the reader. A story that unsettles the reader because of what a horrible experience this must have been & I somehow feel that there should have been a bit of sadness (if not profound sadness) about what Beah & the other child soldiers went through. Only, that wasn’t it. That wasn’t why I was feeling unsettled & uncomfortable. This should have been a difficult, uncomfortable read, but it was far from that. I flew through A Long Way Gone & was pretty ambivalent about what I was reading.

Each evening while we were preparing dinner my OH would ask me how I was getting on with the book & I didn’t know what to tell him, how to explain what I was feeling. Only a few minutes ago I read Biblioglobal’s review of A Long Way Gone & was finally able to put a finger on it. She writes:

Unfortunately I’ve learned that there is some controversy over the accuracy of some parts of the book. From what I’ve read, there do seem to be valid doubts about certain aspects, in particular the length of time that Ishmael Beah was actually a child soldier. (The Village Voice has a good overview of the controversy. There are a lot of understandable reasons why he might have exaggerated or confused his story so I don’t want to pass judgement about it. It does make me sad though. The book would still be very powerful, even if he was a soldier for “only” a few months rather than two years, but the suspicion of such a major inaccuracy detracts from the book, at least for me.

I’ve since read the Village Voice’s article & it voices the same concerns I had about a lot of the book, but had been unable to articulate to my OH. For instance, why is there so much of the book dedicated to telling about Beah’s life before the rebels destroyed his village and after he was released by the Army, but so little time dedicated to the telling of his time as an actual soldier? The lack of dates to have a reference of time was another one. I found myself constantly wondering as I read the book how long things went on, when did this happen, when did that happen? There are virtually no dates mentioned so keeping track of the time-frame is impossible. To me this just didn’t sit well considering Beah claims to have a photographic memory & remembers everything with such clarity (even though he was high as a kite most of the time).

But the thing I found hardest to reconcile was the supposed actions of the UNICEF team at the Benin Home. Beah describes an incident where soon after his arrival at the camp another group of boys arrive & Beah & his comrades discover that they are boys who fought for the Rebel Army. A brawl ensues & several children are killed (some from each side, but with Beah’s group getting the better of the rebel boys) & Beah himself becomes wounded. I would think that an organisation as worldly as UNICEF would not be stupid enough to think it a good idea to take boys straight from the front, from opposite sides of the war & place them in the same rehabilitation camp? I can understand that they might well do that, but surely not straight from the beginning of the rehab process? Surely they were clever enough to see that this kind of violence was not only a possibility it was practically a given!

There are other things that didn’t quite sit right with me, like how does Beah remember everything when he openly admits that he was drugged up beyond all belief during the duration of his time in the war? How did Beah end up in the US? He talks about the busses, the money spent bribing officials to get as far as Conakry in Guinea, but by the time he arrived there he had little to know money & was sleeping on the ground in the Sierra Leonean Embassy there, after having entered Guinea illegally——–Beah even alludes to the fact that he knows that there will be trouble to pay for having entered illegally, but all of that is left out as the book ends on the night of his arrival in Conakry.

Overall, this is a book that I would still recommend people reading, as perhaps it can serve as an eye-opener to the atrocities which adults perpetrate against children in the name of war. I would however recommend that they not take the book as gospel.

Now, purely because of my doubts related to the book, I am giving it a 3 out of 5.

3 Stars


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by | January 27, 2013 · 5:09 pm

Global Reading Challenge ~ Country # 83) Palestine

From Amazon: Heart-breaking, hopeful and horrifying, I Shall Not Hate is a Palestinian doctor’s inspiring account of his extraordinary life, growing up in poverty but determined to treat his patients in Gaza and Israel regardless of their ethnic origin.
A London University – and Harvard-trained Palestinian doctor who was born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip and ‘who has devoted his life to medicine and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians’ (New York Times), Abuelaish is an infertility specialist who lives in Gaza but works in Israel. On the strip of land he calls home (where 1.5 million Gazan refugees are crammed into a few square miles) the Gaza doctor has been crossing the lines in the sand that divide Israelis and Palestinians for most of his life – as a physician who treats patients on both sides of the line, as a humanitarian who sees the need for improved health and education for women as the way forward in the Middle East. And, most recently, as the father whose three daughters were killed by Israeli shells on 16 January 2009, during Israel’s incursion into the Gaza Strip. It was his response to this tragedy that made news and won him humanitarian awards around the world. Instead of seeking revenge or sinking into hatred, Izzeldin Abuelaish called for the people in the region to start talking to each other. His deepest hope is that his daughters will be ‘the last sacrifice on the road to peace between Palestinians and Israelis’.

I try to stay up-to-date with current events/World Politics & follow the situation in Palestine/Israel quite closely. As part of my Global Reading Challenge, I thought that it would be interesting to take a look at both sides of the Gaza Issue & so decided to read I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish.

I Shall Not Hate is an amazing story of one man’s fight to show Palestinians & Israelis that they are more alike than not, that they are both people who deserve to be recognised by the international community & that they can live peacefully side by side. Abuelaish was born and raised in the Jabalia Refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, after his parents made the decision to abandon their land, and head to Gaza for their safety. He was raised surrounded by poverty, working from the time he was old enough to, because as the oldest son that was what he was expected to do, to help feed the family. Despite all the odds against him – poverty, having to work while going to school, wars, hunger, etc – he rose above it all to become a doctor, determined to do everything in his power to help his family & his people.

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I Finally found a book for Andorra!!

It seems that trawling through the internet has finally paid off in my search to find an English Language book written by an author from Andorra! Thanks to Londonchoirgirl for the suggestion (I stumbled across her blog).


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Global Reading Challenge ~ Country # 131) Norway

A couple weeks ago I was in Sainsbury’s picking up a few DVD’s for work & saw a couple books that really caught my attention. The Leopard was one of them. After buying it I discovered that it is part of a series, but I didn’t want to wait to read it, so thought I’d throw caution to the wind & read it anyway. I am so glad that I did!!

In the depths of winter, two young women are found dead, both drowned in their own blood. Inspector Harry Hole, deeply traumatised by an investigation that threatened the lives of those he holds most dear, initially wants nothing to do with the case but his instincts take over when a prominent MP is found brutally murdered. The victims appear completely unconnected to one another, but it’s not long before Harry makes a discovery: the women all spent the night in the same isolated mountain hostel. And someone is picking off the guests, one by one…

The Leopard is the 8th book in a series about Norwegian detective Harry Hole & the first Jo Nesbo book I have read. Admittedly it probably would have been best to have started with Nesbo’s first book, but when I see a new book I like the look of – I buy it. At the time I didn’t know it was part of a series & when I do discover this, often I would rather read what I’ve bought than go out & track down the beginning of the series & wait to read the book I just bought. ‘Cause the thing is, I bought the book in the first place because I needed something to read, not because I wanted to stockpile a bunch of books that are “waiting” to be read.

Luckily for me, The Leopard is one of the rare books in a series that while yes, you probably should read them in order, it isn’t the end of the world if you don’t. Nesbo does mention things that happened in The Snowman (in fact, the character The Snowman is also in this book), but Nesbo writes The Leopard in such a way that reading it before reading The Snowman, doesn’t ruin The Snowman by telling you the critical parts of the story in flashbacks.

The story begins in Hong Kong, where Harry has disappeared to after closing the case on The Snowman. He’s now an unbelievably broken man, intent on killing himself through abuse of alcohol & drugs. Kaja Solness travels to Hong Kong to bring Harry back to Norway to help solve 2 grisly murders – and unfortunately that is all that I can say about the book without giving anything away. Believe me, this book is far too good to have me ruin it for you by talking about what happens in the story. Nesbo’s writing style is gritty & at times gruesome – you’re either going to love it, or hate it. Personally, I loved it & now I need to go buy the rest of the series……..

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Global Reading Challenge ~ Country # 47) Denmark

For some unexplained reason I had a really bad case of apathy toward reading this book. For about a week I shuttled it back & forth with me to work & barely got past the first chapter. Unfortunately, that apathy lead to me missing a really important part of this book & I ended up pretty confused once I got into it, until I figured out where I had gone wrong. I think that while Mercy does begin slowly, it has to, to give you some pretty vital information about the characters, to enable the story to move faster the further you get into it.

Once I got through the beginning (& it was by no means a badly written beginning, I think I was just in the wrong frame of mind to be reading it) this book flew & I absolutely loved it!

Mercy is set in Copenhagen & introduces us to Carl Morck, a badly damaged police officer. Morck, while damaged, isn’t a caricature of a “Typical damaged police officer”, he’s a very well written, intelligent, broken man who happens to be a brilliant police officer. Morck has been hand picked by his bosses to run the newly formed Department Q – the Danish Cold Case Squad. He’s given about a dozen hand-picked cases, a questionable assistant & let go to run the department. He knows that this is just politics & his boss’s way of getting Morck out of his hair.

The case Morck picks to investigate first is that of Merette Lynggaard, who vanished 5 years earlier & is presumed dead. Morck halfheartedly begins searching for clues to Merette’s disappearance, while wondering whether he should be bothering.

Mercy is a scary story, I have to say, and an excellent who-done-it! I did figure out the plot very very early on, but I think that only made it better. I think in my case it also made the story all the more intense. I knew who did it (without having to read the back of the book) & spent the rest of the story enjoying Adler-Olsen’s fantastic writing & trying to figure out what the next twist in the story would be, anticipating how he would get me to the point where the perpetrator would be revealed.

I don’t often like stories that are told from multiple points of view, but Mercy was & it couldn’t have been done better! Adler-Olsen managed to make Merette’s chapters both heart-wrenching & riveting, making you wish you weren’t about to leave her when you got to the end of her chapters & Morck’s are filled with angst, laced with humour & a very peculiar Syrian assistant named Assad. I also loved the way that Adler-Olsen wove the two stories together – Merette’s beginning in the past, slowing working its way to the present where it collides with Morck & Assad.

Mercy is apparently Adler-Olsen’s first foray into mystery novels & all I can say is “Wow! What a debut!”


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