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#Bookreview Deadlines on the Front Line: Travels with a Veteran War Correspondent by Paul Moorcraft (@penswordbooks). A chronicle of a life spent chasing the news #non-fiction

Hi all:

And now, for something totally different.

Deadlines on the Front Line: Travels with a Veteran War Correspondent  by Paul Moorcraft
Deadlines on the Front Line: Travels with a Veteran War Correspondent
by Paul Moorcraft

Deadlines on the Front Line: Travels with a Veteran War Correspondent by Paul Moorcraft.

The author of this gritty memoir has lived life to the full and fortunately has the ability to recall his experiences in a graphic and entertaining manner.

As a war correspondent and paramilitary policeman, Moorcraft was a magnet for drama and action. His descriptions of sometimes tragic and often hilarious escapades in war torn countries literally from A (Afghanistan) to Z (Zimbabwe) are self-effacingly entertaining. His light-hearted approach disguises a thoroughly perceptive and analytical mind. The reader will never be bored while accompanying Moorcraft reporting on wars in over thirty combat zones in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe. This is his book of hazardous travels to strange, often little-known places meeting even stranger people who were often all too keen to lock him up or try and kill him.

Deadlines on the Frontline is a delightful and invigorating read which offers an intelligent insight into the turbulent world of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

https://www.amazon.com/Deadlines-Front-Line-Travels-Correspondent/dp/1526739496/

https://www.amazon.es/Deadlines-Front-Line-Travels-Correspondent-ebook/dp/B07QGKH1B6/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deadlines-Front-Line-Travels-Correspondent-ebook/dp/B07QGKH1B6/

https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/Deadlines-on-the-Front-Line-Hardback/p/15475

About the author:

Professor Paul Moorcraft is a prolific author and war correspondent who served in the Rhodesian/Zimbabwean Police and worked closely with the British armed forces for many years. His book The Rhodesian War (Pen and Sword 2008) has been a huge success. He lives in the Surrey Hills, near Guildford.

Paul Moorcraft’s book ‘The Jihadist Threat’ was one of six military titles shortlisted for the British Army Military Book of the Year 2016.

My review:

Thanks to Rosie Croft from Pen & Sword for sending me an early hardback copy of this book, which I freely chose to review.

I have become interested in the world of the press and reporters of recent, and when I read the information about this book, I had to check it out.

This book is part memoir/part chronicle of Moorcraft’s life as a war correspondent, but it is not only about that, as he does talk in detail about periods of his life dedicated to teaching (for example in Australia and New Zealand) and also about a variety of other projects he took on, like creating documentaries of all kinds, mostly following his instincts and his interests. If he was living in a particular country, and he heard about something going on in a neighbouring one, he’d always manage to find a reason to be there. He knew how to sell his ideas and how to get news agencies and broadcasters interested, for good reason, as he is an engaging and knowledgeable reporter, with a knack for meeting all kinds of people and getting into difficult places. Some of the stories of his trips to meet fighters, guerrilla leaders, and his stays at dangerous places at particularly risky times make for scary reading, as it’s impossible not to think what we would have felt like in that situation. I don’t think many of us would have dared to try some of the stunts he pulls, and it is easy to see why he wonders about the nature of courage in his conclusion. Courage might take many forms, but there is little doubt that what he and many of his colleagues did, and do still, takes courage and something we might call a true vocation or “calling”. And yes, perhaps some form of “madness”.

I’ve read a review that says the author has covered all countries almost from A to Z (and yes, Afghanistan to Zimbabwe and many in between, all around Europe, Africa, Asia and Oceania, some which no longer exist as well) and that is true. He writes well, extremely well, and he is far from politically correct or careful when it comes to stating his opinions, that are deeply personal and do not ever purport to be neutral or even fair. Some of his views will be unpopular with some readers (I must admit I do not share his point of view on many subjects), but he narrates his own experiences candidly, he does not take himself too seriously, being as critical of himself as he is of the rest of the people who make an appearance in this book, and he humbly acknowledges that his opinion might be biased and one-sided.  Although his adventures reminded me of James Bond at times (a character I must confess I’ve never been fond of), he shows empathy and a deep concern for those in a position of weakness and powerlessness, suffering due to the poor decisions of those who are supposed to protect them. He is self-deprecating at times, and there are plenty of jokes and humour, very British humour (or Welsh, although he acknowledges that for someone who deeply loves Wales, he has spent most of his life away) in the book. There are also many photographs, maps, a timeline, and great observations of places, countries, and ways of life that, in some cases, have totally disappeared (his early chapters on Africa and South-Africa I found particularly illuminating in this respect).

I recommend this book to people interested in how being a war correspondent and a reporter has changed over the recent years, to those who want to read a personal account of what it was like to live in some of the most conflict-ridden areas in the world from the early 1970s until recently, and to people interested in life as a university professor in different countries over the years. The author has written many other books, fiction and non-fiction, and if readers enjoy his writing, there’s plenty more to explore.

As an example of his style, I’ll leave you with his closing reflections:

I still plan a few more comebacks, just like the guy who grew up in the same Pontypridd street where my mother’s family lived: Tom Jones. I have accepted that instead of always wondering why I inevitably sat next to the nutter on the bus, train or plane, I realize that people often thought I was the nutter. I spent my working life at places such as Sandhurst or Staff College assuming I was the only sane man in the lunatic asylum. I finally realized that they couldn’t all be wrong.

Thanks to Rosie and to the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to share if you enjoy it and to always keep reading and smiling!

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#Bookreview BEHOLD THE DREAMERS: A NOVEL by Imbolo Mbue. Beautifully written story of a lost in translation version of the American Dream

Hi all:

This is the last review for this week, but plenty more to come. And although the material says the novel is long-listed for the Pen/Faulkner Award, it is now officially one of the finalists (read an article in the Washington Post about it here). So, remember, you heard it here first!

 

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

Behold the Dreamers: A Novel by Imbolo Mbue

Longlisted for a PEN Open Book Award • A compulsively readable debut novel about marriage, immigration, class, race, and the trapdoors in the American Dream—the unforgettable story of a young Cameroonian couple making a new life in New York just as the Great Recession upends the economy

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY
The New York Times • The Washington Post • Kirkus • NPR • San Francisco Chronicle • The Guardian • St. Louis Dispatch

Jende Jonga, a Cameroonian immigrant living in Harlem, has come to the United States to provide a better life for himself, his wife, Neni, and their six-year-old son. In the fall of 2007, Jende can hardly believe his luck when he lands a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers. Clark demands punctuality, discretion, and loyalty—and Jende is eager to please. Clark’s wife, Cindy, even offers Neni temporary work at the Edwardses’ summer home in the Hamptons. With these opportunities, Jende and Neni can at last gain a foothold in America and imagine a brighter future.

However, the world of great power and privilege conceals troubling secrets, and soon Jende and Neni notice cracks in their employers’ façades.

When the financial world is rocked by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Jongas are desperate to keep Jende’s job—even as their marriage threatens to fall apart. As all four lives are dramatically upended, Jende and Neni are forced to make an impossible choice.

Praise for Behold the Dreamers

“A debut novel by a young woman from Cameroon that illuminates the immigrant experience in America with the tenderhearted wisdom so lacking in our political discourse . . . Mbue is a bright and captivating storyteller.”The Washington Post

“Mbue writes with great confidence and warmth. . . . A capacious, big-hearted novel.”The New York Times Book Review

“Behold the Dreamers’ heart . . . belongs to the struggles and small triumphs of the Jongas, which Mbue traces in clean, quick-moving paragraphs.”Entertainment Weekly

“Mbue’s writing is warm and captivating.”People (book of the week)

“[Mbue’s] book isn’t the first work of fiction to grapple with the global financial crisis of 2007–2008, but it’s surely one of the best. . . . It’s a novel that depicts a country both blessed and doomed, on top of the world, but always at risk of losing its balance. It is, in other words, quintessentially American.”—NPR

“Imbolo Mbue’s masterful debut about an immigrant family struggling to obtain the elusive American Dream in Harlem will have you feeling for each character from the moment you crack it open.”In Style

“This story is one that needs to be told.”Bust 

Behold the Dreamers challenges us all to consider what it takes to make us genuinely content, and how long is too long to live with our dreams deferred.”O: The Oprah Magazine

“[A] beautiful, empathetic novel.”The Boston Globe

“A witty, compassionate, swiftly paced novel that takes on race, immigration, family and the dangers of capitalist excess.”St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Mbue [is] a deft, often lyrical observer. . . . [Her] meticulous storytelling announces a writer in command of her gifts.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

Links:

https://www.amazon.com/Behold-Dreamers-Novel-Imbolo-Mbue/dp/0812998480/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Behold-Dreamers-Imbolo-MBUE-ebook/dp/B015I52K7W/

About the author:

Author Imbolo Mbue
Author Imbolo Mbue

Imbolo Mbue is a native of Limbe, Cameroon. She holds a B.S. from Rutgers University and an M.A. from Columbia University. A resident of the United States for over a decade, she lives in New York City.

https://www.amazon.com/Imbolo-Mbue/e/B013PDCN94/

 

 

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

My review:

Thanks to NetGalley and to Harper Collings UK, 4th State for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I voluntarily review.

This novel, written by an author hailing from Cameroon, like her characters, tells us the story of the Jongas, a family of emigrants trying to make a go of life in the USA, more specifically in New York. Jende strikes it lucky at the beginning and gets a job as a chauffeur for Clark Edwards, a big executive for Lehman Brothers. That seems to open many opportunities for Jende and his family, paving the way for all their dreams to come true. Unfortunately, the undoing of Lehman, some personal issues in the Edwards family and the pressure of their unclear immigration status (Jende arrived with a 3 months’ busy that he’s overstayed, his wife has a student visa but they might not have enough money to finance her studies to become a pharmacist and their son would have to go back if the father does) change all that.

The story, written in the third person alternating the points of view of Jende and his wife, Neni, is full of details of the subjective experience of the characters, from the worries about their immigration status, the variety of connections with people from home (from parties, to disinterested advice, emotional support…), their feelings about New York (their favourite places, the cultural shock of confronting new rules, prices, weather, standards and extremes of poverty and richness), their initial shock and later better understanding of the Edwards lifestyle, the educational opportunities and the effect of the stress of their situation on their personal lives.

Both characters are credible, engaging and easy to empathise with, even when we might not agree with their actions and/or decisions. They also have dreams and wishes for their future and their family. To begin with, they both think the USA will change their lives and open up avenues they’d never be able to pursue back home. Jende couldn’t even marry Neni back home and his wife had to live with her parents and had no chance to study. Everything seems possible in the USA, but slowly it becomes clear that things aren’t as straightforward as they thought at first, that being white and rich in America doesn’t equal happiness, and that not everyone is prepared to give them a chance.

There are funny moments and also very sad ones (especially when the couple disagrees and their relationship becomes difficult) and one can’t help but become invested in the story and the future of the couple and their children, who become ersatz members of our family. If at times the Jongas appear as victims of circumstances and a system that they don’t understand, at others they take things into their own hands, and, whatever we might think about what they do, they act. The book is beautifully written and offers an insight into lives that might be different to ours but we can easily share in.

On a personal note, I was a bit disappointed by the ending, not so much by what happens but by how it comes about, and I wasn’t so sure the reactions of the main characters towards the end of the book were totally consistent with the personality they’d shown so far, although it might be possible to see it as a result of the extreme pressures they experience. What that would suggest of the likelihood that their Cameroonian dream will end up becoming a reality is the crux of the matter but something left to the imagination of the readers. The scene towards the end of the book between Clark Edwards and Jende Jonga where they share their future plans (both of them moving on to a future more in keeping with family values and less with work), makes us think of how differently the women of the book see things compared to their men. Gender relations are one of the most interesting and troubling aspects of the novel.

A solid book with great characters that deals with important issues (domestic violence, family relations, cultural differences, immigration, asylum seeking, race relations, the Lehman Brothers and the economic crisis following its fall, the American Dream…), is a joy to read and it will make you consider many of those topics from a different point of view.

Thanks so much to NetGalley, the publishers and the author for this book (anecdotally, I was reading it in Paris when I was visiting my friend Iman, and I kept telling her the story when we went running and she found it very interesting too) and thanks to you all for reading. Please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

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