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A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier Hardcover – 19 Jan 2007

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Hardcover, 19 Jan 2007
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux Inc; First Printing, Stained edition (19 Jan 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374105235
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374105235
  • Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 15 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 726,803 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Jaybird on 14 Feb 2008
Format: Paperback
Ismael Beah's story of being caught up in the civil war of Sierra Leone, of witnessing and then taking part in atrocities, is simply written, but no less powerful for that. He writes as a child of 12, although it is clear from his afterword that he has chosen this style to give greater impact, and that as a wrtier he is capable of a much more sophisticated analysis.

This approach works and definitely makes the book accessible to teenagers, particularly teenage boys.

He has a great ear for the nuances of childhood, you can immediately connect to both his feelings of excitement, loneliness and fear in the earlier parts of the book.

His book describes all the initiations of a child soldier - the drug addiction and violent initiation ceremonies, but skims somewhat over what happened between being forced to be a child soldier and his rehabilitation.

You are also left with a feeling that some of the process of rehabilitation has been left private. There is a difficult line between honesty and indulging the reader's voyeurism. this is not a book which indulges in violence for its own sake.

That said, Beah's description of what must have been an incredibly painful journey towards self-acceptance and rehabilitation is sometimes skimmed over. He was a child, with no real choices, but he also did some terrible things and deep down he must know that. There is none of the masterful, and intensely painful, self analysis of, say, Roman Frister, in his book "The Cap, or the Price of a Life". Perhaps Beah is still too young to write that book of his life, but I think he may have it in him.

So, an excoriating description of life in Sierra Leone, which leaves you to fill in some the gaps yourself.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Gordon Eldridge on 19 Feb 2008
Format: Paperback
This story is simply told. There are no fancy literary flourishes designed to manipulate the reader's emotions and no eloquent explanations designed to sway us to a particular viewpoint. It is the simple story of a child unwittingly caught up in the appalling violence of civil war. The narrator tells his own story. It is the story of how civil war destroys the normality of life in his village, of how he runs from the advancing violence, but eventually cannot avoid being drafted into its very heart as a child soldier. He describes the process of desensitization that allows him to survive the horrors he participates in and the even more difficult process of learning to re-engage with civil society once he has been rescued from the battlefield.

Some readers may be disappointed by the fact that the book provides only very limited historical background to the conflict in Sierra Leone and by the fact that the narrator engages in only very limited introspection about what he has experienced. The plot also contains a few scenes that come across as a bit contrived and unlikely, but none of this detracts from the picture that is painted of the horrors of child soldiers involved in civil war. The power of the story lies in its simplicity and in the fact that we know it is being told by someone who lived through it.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Random Reader on 26 Dec 2009
Format: Hardcover
This book describes the experiences of the author as a child in civil war-torn Sierra Leone. Beah first relates his agonising separation from family, the aimless wandering from place-to-place, and subsequently the violent events after joining the national army as a child soldier. He kills countless people and witnesses horrors all too consistent with the reports of others. However, I felt uneasy about the book. Some aspects just didn't ring true.
It was at this point that I learned of the unresolved controversy about the accuracy of the events described by the author. Personally what troubled me however was not the issue of historical accuracy. Rather it was the complete absence of remorse. Beah slits the throats of prisoners in cold blood as he looks into their eyes, shoots at them to hurry them to dig their own graves, helps bury them alive and so forth. Despite these acts against the defenceless I found little or no self-questioning, and precious little regret, only an acceptance of the view that "it was not your fault". In the end the book therefore came across as self-orientated and even self-serving. Of course much can be understood in terms of the need to survive at the time and, after such trauma, denial is an understandable self-protection. Nevertheless, I expected more from someone with time to reflect and who is now head of his own USA-based foundation to help former child soldiers. From this book you will learn something of the events of that period, be they Beah's experiences or others I am not sure it matters, but you won't learn so much about the human response to such horror and the struggle to live with having performed such acts. Perhaps a child is protected from such agonies or maybe they only emerge with more time.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By sara down on 4 Sep 2008
Format: Paperback
The subtitle to this is `Memoirs of a Boy Soldier' and Ishmael Beah paints a stunning and horrifying picture of what human beings are capable of doing. The acts that he's party to, the acts that he perpetrates, are horrendous in their violence and their cruelty, and yet Ishmael's background story - how he loses his family and everything he has known and is manipulated and coerced into his actions - gives these acts a dramatic context.
Reading this true story will stir strong emotions and, in the case of this reviewer at least, put things into perspective; for those thinking life is tough with credit crunches and expensive petrol prices, think again...
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