The result is enthralling, deeply personal, utterly authentic: an on-the-ground picture of the war in Iraq that no one else could have written. As Chicago Sun-Times critic Lloyd Sachs wrote about Garrels's work in Baghdad, "A few choice words, honestly delivered, are worth more than a thousand pictures...In your mind's eye, they carry lasting truth."
This is not just the best book I have read all year (and last year for that matter) it's a book you really should hear rather than read, if you can. The narrators are the people who lived this adventure: Anne Garrels, NPR correspondent tells the story of what it was like to be one of only a dozen journalists who remained in Bagdad during the war while her husband Vint Lawrence reads his own wonderfully written email updates about Anne that he sent to friends and family. Part of the book is about Anne Garrels' individual journey through tangles of corrupt bureaucracy and bombs and the people of Baghdad who often risked their safety to help her. It's a window onto the city and the people of Baghdad, very intimate and personal, well apart from network news coverage. Part of the book is the story of a married couple and how they championed each other under difficult and often frightening conditions. It's a book about courage, chaos, bribery, frustration, love, friendship, dirty water, duct tape and dust and I think that makes it a classic. Give it a listen.
108 of 111 people found this review helpful
I found Anne's reporting very good and extremely accurate. It reflects the views of the Iraqi's I encountered while working at the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). I wish she had pounded CNN a little harder over thier dramatazation of events before they knew any facts but she remainded focused on her story.
I believe a little more historical background could have been given at the beginning to help understand how Sadaam could come to power and how the Iraq situation adds to the unrest in the Middle East.
The Brenda Bulletins were endearing at first but nerve racking in the end. They were presented at too slow a pace and were often repetitive of what Anne had already said. Anne was a brave correspondent in a very dangerous area. I got that without having to be told that every ten minutes.
I can say the views that Anne presents from the Iraqi's is 100% in line with what I experienced. Although I only give this three stars for the presentation. I give it five stars for a must read.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful
Anne Garrels account of the people of Baghdad, their fears, their dreams, their families and their pride in themselves and their country, brings the war on Baghdad back to the personal level.
It is powerful in that it is one of the few peices of work which cuts through the politicised large media organisation view of Irag that has been portrayed to the world, to focus on how the war affects people, parents, children, who are just like us.
It is wonderfully captivating, with great narration (Although Anne's partner Vi's occasional short narratives are sometimes painful in tone and reading style)), however this does not take away from a great book.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
Living in the UK for the past few years, I had not heard Anne Garrel nor NPR during the recent conflict (to correct another review - this is actually about the "second" Gulf War). It was highly informative to hear her very profressional reporting, but what makes this a "must listen" is her husband's moving, and often humorous, updates on Anne.
There is a fantastic chapter where she dutifully reports the horrors of civilian casualties in a Baghdad market place, providing insightful analysis of the contradictory reports being given to her by grieving, angry Iraqis. What her husband reveals later on, is the emotional bludgeoning an event like this has on a passive observer like a journalist. The tearful phone call he describes as receiving helps colour her actual experience for you, beyond the satellite phone report she filed with Morning Edition.
Not only did this high quality writing/reporting compel me from chapter to chapter, but it helped me better understand the continuing conflict in Iraq. I can't recommend this strongly enough.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
This is the first time I wish I had bought an abridged version of a book. Garrels' experience leading up to the Iraq war is very interesting, and during that period I listened to her NPR reporting on a regular basis. I knew what to expect from her and was not disappointed in the way she told the story or her narration. In fact, I found the additional background information in the book to be fascinating.
The book goes back and forth between Garrels' story and her husband Vint's (sp?) take on same (about an 85/15% split). Midway through I was about ready to shoot Vint. Many of his "Brenda Bulletins" were repetitions of things we'd just heard Garrels talk about, but told at about 1/4 speed. While there were some interesting nuggets in the Bulletins, in general I thought they destroyed the pace of the book, and I came to dread them. I even fast-forwarded past a couple of them (something I hate doing).
Things got better by the end - even the Brenda Bulletins became more interesting. It's eerie to listen to the book and then listen to the Iraq reporting today (often by Garrels), because Garrels correctly predicts many of the situations we are facing in Iraq today.
Overall, I'm glad I listened to the book, and found it to be as relevant today as it was a year ago. I just wish a decent editor had cut out about 20% of the material - it would have made for a much better read.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
This is a compelling book, made even more so by Anne Garrels' narration. I listen almost exclusively to NPR, and their "voices" take on an intimate quality since they're with me almost everywhere I go...at home, in the car, at friends' houses, or on my iPod while walking my dog! I found her descriptions of working in Iraq leading up to the war fascinating as I don't often consider the daily difficulties of the journalist on the ground. There are some books that are better when listened to, and this is one of them. The experience is enhanced by the fact that Anne Garrels and her husband are reading their own words. I highly recommend listening to this book.
18 of 21 people found this review helpful
A great narrative. It kept my attention the entire time. The verbal pictures it created were fantastic. It helps put many events in perspective.
24 of 29 people found this review helpful
I found this inside account very interesting. Listening to the voices of the author and her husband made it especially enjoyable. I have never listened to Anne on NPR. I find her reporting, insight and voice extremely engaging. I spent many minutes in my garage after a drive listening to this book unable to turn it off (even if only to walk inside). I am now a huge fan of Anne!
7 of 8 people found this review helpful
I enjoyed this book very much. It's not often that you get a journalist stepping out of their lofty and sometime meglomaniacle shoes to give a testament of their own experience in a warzone.
Ms. Garrels memories of Chechnya and other ravaged combat zones act's as a stepping stone to her experience in Iraq.
She give's a sometimes harrowing, sometimes humorous view of a journalist's journey to find a face and purpose on the war.
For the most part, she give's an unbiased view of the Iraqi people's suffering and what they see as trading one miserable situation for another.
It's also a pretty good take on the real journalist vs tabloid/sensationalist coverage of the war and how those who have been in the field for years reporting the truth of war, loath and despise the "10 second story" types who only show the side of war that the government wants them to show.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
I have to admit that I often find some of the NPR people left leaning but Anne does a great job of taking the middle road here. The book is interesting and gives a nice insight into the people of Iraq. She doesn't take cheap shots at any politicians and just presents her account. Very good listen. Lets you see how much junk gets reported by even the "repected" news agencies just to get the story first. Recommended
7 of 8 people found this review helpful