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Some book reviews

Posted by Maureen Friday, January 02, 2009 Labels:

While I was on my trip, I read the following books:

This was my favorite read of the month. A strong recommendation from Tim clued me in up front, although I was hesitant about reading a novel about the war in Sudan while actually in Sudan. Didn't want to be overwhelmed. But rather, it was totally enlightening. While it is a fictional work, it is formed around many historical facts and comes mainly from the perspective of Western aid workers, as well as a few individuals from the Northern militias. Everything from the landscape to the people to the history of the violence came alive to me as I read it, and then found myself in the midst of it. If you're ever up for a heavier novel (it's fairly graphic at points regarding violence) or interested in Sudan, definitely check this one out.

This book was my book club's choice for December. I inadvertently went from reading one war novel to the next, as this one takes place during World War II. The author was a novelist who was killed in Auschwitz--the manuscripts to these novels (it's a two-in-one) were found after her death. The story considers the lives of many affected by different aspects of the war, focusing on the upper classes and the strangely different struggles they found themselves in. It was fairly anticlimactic, yet it still kept me turning the pages and in the end I most certainly recommend it.

I picked this one up at a used book store in Nairobi since I had already finished the previous two novels that I brought for my trip. It looked interesting and had some good reviews. It begins as the story of an old woman, reminiscing about her childhood and youth. It's really lovely until about a third of the way through the book, when it transforms into the perspective of the woman recording her days as a 90-some year old dying woman and her troubled friend and care-taker, Bruno Maddox (the author). That was interesting for a while, but by the time I finished it I really kind of hated it. But in many ways, I think that was the point. Nevertheless, I'm not going to go around recommending this to folks. :)

Okay, so I haven't actually finished this one yet. (It's hard to focus on non-fiction when you're on 16 hour flights and not getting any sleep.) Nevertheless, I did get a good start on it and am really pleased with what I've read so far. The subtitle sums it up well, "Why the West's efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good." I'm reading it for an independent study this upcoming semester. It has really struck a chord with me, as for the past two years I have reflected on my former interest in aid methods such as the ONE campaign, and wondered if that's truly the right thing to do. So, just a few chapters into this one, I'm gonna go ahead and recommend it.

2 comments:

7K said...

I might read "White Man's Burden" or at least discuss it with you sometime. Bernard and I discuss such things. I'm not sure I have any light on this.

will said...

i read WMB a few months back, and it was nice to find some comfort in a dissenting voice to the ONE and MPH campaigns... a lot of valid points.

Maybe the book is a bit out of date (last updated in 2006?), but some of his recommendations have already been tried... and failed :(

but it's a good starting point for discussion indeed 7k!