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Ghosts By Daylight: A Memoir of War and Love [Hardcover]

Janine di Giovanni
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

4 July 2011
Before I reached the stairwell, I saw something out of the corner of my eye. A strange and beautiful man had dropped to his knees in front of me, unencumbered, unembarrassed. I stopped short. He was slender, almost Asiatic looking, wearing baggy combat trousers and a T-shirt. He was flirting, and then he was laughing at my reaction. There was not much for me to do but also smile...

Janine and Bruno first fell in love as young reporters in the besieged city of Sarajevo. Years later - after endless phone calls, much of what the French call malentendu, secret trysts in foreign cities, numerous break-ups, three miscarriages, countless stories of rebel armies and a dozen wars that had passed between them - they arrive in Paris one rainy January to begin a new life together.

The remnants of their separate lives, now left behind, are tentatively unpacked into their shared apartment on the Right Bank: Bruno's heavy blanket from Ethiopia, a set of long feathered arrows from Brazil, an ash tray stolen from a hotel in Algeria, and Janine's flak-jacket and canvas boots, still full of sand from the Western Desert in Iraq.

But having met in another lifetime - in another world - ordinary, civilian life doesn't come easily. War has become part of them: it had brought them together, and, though both are damaged by it, neither can quite leave it behind. And the difficult journey that follows, through their mix of joy and terror at becoming parents, Bruno's battle with post-traumatic stress and addiction, and Janine's determination to make France her home, leads to an understanding of the truth that people who deeply love each other cannot always live together.

A searing, profoundly moving love letter, beautifully written, Ghosts by Daylight is a powerfully raw portrait of marriage and motherhood in the aftermath of war.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (4 July 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140882051X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408820513
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 22.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 450,754 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'Janine di Giovanni writes with unblinking courage about war, death, marriage, motherhood, loss, love, redemption, fear -- indeed, about all the world's most pressing risks and dangers. She has seen far more of life than the rest of us, so she knows more than we do --and yet she lays down her memoir with touching and deeply honest humility. Her writing here (as ever in her remarkable career) is a great and important achievement' (Elizabeth Gilbert)

'A profound and beautiful book about the two great human struggles: Love and War. That so much hope could shine through a story of such violence and destruction is testimony to the human spirit and, of course, the breathtaking clarity of Di Giovanni's prose. It is a brilliant book about things that concern us all' (Sebastian Junger)

'Only a writer as tender and intuitive as Janine di Giovanni can offer herself as a witness to some of the world's most barbarous and nightmarish wars while also deconstructing the very private unraveling of a once-beautiful love story. Ghosts by Daylight, just like its author, is brave, heroically and elegantly told, and brutally honest' (Fatima Bhutto)

Book Description

From award-winning journalist Janine di Giovanni a scorching memoir of love and loss

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Ghosts by Daylight is less a book about war than author Janine Di Giovanni's struggles to adapt to life without the frontline. It is not always an easy read and the author can come across as being just as self-centred and tiresome as she does brilliant and courageous. The book seemingly mirror her flaws and unless one sees it - and in effect her life - in its totality, parts of it can seem overblown. In particular the way in which she writes about motherhood would seem at times suggest that she is the only woman in the world to experience the confusion of emotions that come with rearing children. Indeed I found some of these passages irritating and lacking self-awareness. But then few mothers have spent their lives travelling from the frontline of one humanitarian crisis to another, so who am I to possibly judge?

The most powerful passages deal with life on the frontline, notably in the book's closing pages when she returns to Sarajevo. These sections are too scarce and there is a sense that we are only getting the briefest of glimpses of the horrors she has seen and experienced. And yet we are often left with the sense that motherhood and marriage have been more difficult for her to deal with than mayhem and carnage in warzones.

This is a complex, slightly flawed book but one which probably reflects the life and personality of its author. Certainly it is worth perservering with.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing 21 April 2012
By Z de MC
This book is a scattered-brained mess of a memoir. It talks about the author's experiences of war, and her subsequent life as a housewife/mother in seemingly random flashbacks, in no discernible order. She settles in Paris, then she is in Sarajejevo under siege, then her child is three, then she is pregnant... She must have had an editor but I can't imagine what he was thinking by having the book constructed in such a confusing fashion.

The parts about war are raw, intense, and very good. The parts about love, pregnancy, birth, life in Paris etc are frankly boring and not particularly different than the experiences of most women. I'm sure it all felt very exceptional to the author, but miscarriages, pregnancy, weak cervix, then breastfeeding etc are fairly common, garden variety experiences many of us go through and we really didn't need to know about hers. The way she glorifies Bruno is also quite perplexing - he doesn't sound like a great catch, from the beginning when he courts her while in a long term relationship with another woman, and must have been amazed at his luck when the author started worshipping him as if he were a minor deity.

If she wrote only about her experiences as a war reporter, this would have been a very good book. As it is, it is only a 3-star: "It was OK".
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful and Powerful 30 Oct 2011
This is not a book solely about war and it is not a book solely about Di Giovanni's life as a war corespondent. It is a book about life and the struggles that make life what it is. Although not everyone will experience the same emotions, fears, risks, hopes as the author, most everyone can take away some piece of what it means to be alive in this day and time. As a psychologist and a coach who works with many people who strive to make their life meaningful and powerful, I recommend this book as an example of one woman's story of courage, strength, beauty, love and vulnerability. I also recommend this book as a story of being honest about who you are. If you are looking for the details of war, read a different book. If you want a story about living an authentic life no matter what your situation, you will be moved. Beautiful and powerful are the words I would use to describe Di Giovanni's memoir. Bravo
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written and hard to put down 15 July 2011
A moving account of writer Janine di Giovanni's life as she settles down in Paris. Nothing is easy as her life changes from being a war correspondent to a mother. She writes very honestly about her marriage breakdown - what started with strong and passionate love in war zones becomes impossible to sustain in safe Paris.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two lives touching, painfully 15 Jan 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Janine di Giovanni is a wonderful writer and a brave woman. This book differs, I believe, from most of her work as it is a personal story rather than reports from the battlefield and killing places of the world. If you have ever wondered how being a war reporter of photographer affects the person then this is a book for you as it tells of her attempts and her husband's attempts to live a 'normal' life together with their child. It's no secret that they don't succeed completely. Di Giovanni's account of their efforts made me wish that I'd had the restraint to read her other work earlier so that i could put this in the context of her life more accurately. Certainly something for the non-brave stay-at-home to read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book! 21 Nov 2012
By helen
I loved the intensity of this book, its rawness and honesty. It's a book about love, war and motherhood. It's about the horrors of war and the horrors of love. It tells you that you may get terribly hurt, and that you'll never really get over that hurt, although there are moments or eben months of bliss and happiness. I think Janine di Giovanni is driven, she'll never stop being a war correspondent. And correspondent only because this is the only acceptable modern form of being in a war, other than as a soldier. But as I read it, she needs to be close to the existential situation of war. Only in war does she really seem to be truly alive - and this is also when the book is at comes into its own. I'm not sure about all the motherhood stuff, I think that was another frontier she had to cross but whether it made her happy? Anyway, that's for her to decide. In any case this book is a triumph of really grasping life by its collar and shaking it as violently as you can. Read it!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Love and War
As an admirer of Janine di Giovanni's writing in Marie Claire and other magazines/newspapers, I expected this book to be good, and it is. Read more
Published on 18 April 2012 by DianaGreece
3.0 out of 5 stars Better on war than love...
Well, just finished this vaguely autobiographical novel, and on the whole I enjoyed the read. The story describes the life and travails of a war correspondent, traumatised from... Read more
Published on 14 April 2012 by ijhodgson
1.0 out of 5 stars Confusing and poorly edited
This book is NOT, in my opinion, 'beautifully written' as so many other reviewers would have one believe. Read more
Published on 8 Mar 2012 by Tracie
4.0 out of 5 stars A moving story
Through a loosely told chronology, the story flits between present realities and past memories. Both are littered with the horror of war; the civil kind. Read more
Published on 22 Oct 2011 by Ian Hunter
5.0 out of 5 stars ghosts bu daylight By Janine di Giovanni
An evocative and sensual story of love and war. Janine di Giovanni's book is intimate, touching and very romantic. Beautifully written and a pleasure to read from cover to cover.
Published on 29 Aug 2011 by diana de Gunzburg
5.0 out of 5 stars ghosts by daylight
An incredible book . The story is very touching my wife and myself loved it . Please read it . You won't be disappointed .
Published on 26 Aug 2011 by Michel J. Lamirand
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read.
A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the toll war reporting takes on the inner lives of those who venture out to shine light in dark places. Read more
Published on 10 Aug 2011 by Sophie Philips
5.0 out of 5 stars superb.....
I absolutly loved this book. It made me cry, laugh and be nostalgic. I love a good, true and honest story. And this is it.
Published on 8 Aug 2011 by samanth
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