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Soldiers of Light Hardcover – 25 Mar 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (25 Mar. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713997478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713997477
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.2 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,959,063 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Soldiers of Light is one of the best books I've read in years. It's harrowing yet deeply moving. -- Sunday Herald (Glasgow), March 21, 2004

Bergner draws us into this land and people... knowing these stories makes us better, richer and more intelligent
human beings. -- Chicago Tribune

Bergner has undertaken a huge, ghastly task... beautifully
written with such intelligence that you
will not pull away from it. -- LA Times

Bergner's journey is arduous, dangerous and brave - a journey in which both author and reader are irrevocably changed. -- Aminatta Forna, The Sunday Times, March 28, 2004

In the finest Orwellian tradition, Soldiers of Light will discomfit readers across the political spectrum. -- Boyd Tonkin, The Independent

About the Author

Daniel Bergner is an acclaimed journalist. Based in Manhattan, he has travelled throughout Africa, from Liberia to Sudan, and is a contributor to Harper's, the New York Times Magazine, and the New Yorker. Soldiers of Light won an Overseas Press Club Award for international reporting and was named a Best Book of the Year by the Los Angeles Times. It has recently been longlisted for the Lettres Ulysses Award for the Art of Reportage. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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'Listennnn to me!' The captain lifted his arms as though in benediction, his white hands spread high and wide. Read the first page
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tom Jordan on 19 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback
Having travelled to Sierra Leone for work I have seen many places which are mentioned in the book like Koidu, and the cotton tree in Freetown, and even had drinks in the bars mentioned!

I find it great how Daniel Bergner manages to capture certain things I see when I travel to Africa and put them down on paper. In this I mean the good and the bad, from the heights of happiness to the horrible things which occur.

The book can be slightly graphic in certain sections but with reason, and it tries to give the reader the truth of the situation.

I found it quite emotional reading this book and thing he has done a great way to describe events in a very balanced way, giving the reader a background of a variety of people who are/were involved in Sierra Leone's living history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By RogerC on 24 Aug. 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book reveals the extremes of humanity prevalent in Sierra Leone......from the horrors of the atrocities carried out by the 'rebels' to the caring of the missionary family from the USA. A country trapped in a constant spiral of horror and calm, the peoples of Sierra Leone seem doomed to a life of war and abject poverty. Read this book if you want to understand how some African countries are never going to be stable and productive. Inhabited by a people who, in the main, are lacking in basic education and enthusisam for anything Sierra Leone will remain, by western standards a 'failed state'. A phrase from the book says foreign intervention is so ineffective in the short to long term that it is akin to 'taking your hand out of a bucket of water'. A phrase I found very appropriate having been to Freetown on many occasions. You can try to educate/coerce and encourage development at the most basic level and for a very short while there is some improvement, but within days of being left to their own devices the apathy/lethargy and couldn't care less attitude returns.

This book raises so many seemingly unanswerable questions:

Will those 'boy soldiers' who comitted the most unimaginable acts of violence ever become useful members of Sierra Leone society?...I very much doubt it. There is so much that this country and it's peoples have to overcome, in that it lacks the basic building blocks of humanity and society, that it seems doomed to remain for a very long time to come a 'failed state'.

Is there hope for Sierra Leone and those countries of a similar ilk?....Sadly I very much doubt it.

An excellent book which I recommend to anyone with the stomach to read it and who can accept the questions it raises relative to international intervention .....or the lack of it when armed with the knowledge of the horrors being perpetrated.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By "steve_deeley" on 27 May 2004
Format: Hardcover
A well written, well balanced acocunt on the scale and enormity of the problems facing Africa today and what role the Western world has played/is playing in region. The book is helped immeasureably by the evenhandedness of the narrative- the author simply reports what he sees and leaves the reader to draw his/her own conclusions, making for a thought provoking and interesting read.
One of the best books I have read this year
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By Nico on 31 May 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found Daniel Bergner's account of the civil war and it's aftermath in Sierra Leone to be absolutely riveting. Bergner really took you under the skin in Sierra Leone (somewhere I've never been) to the extent that I felt I had been there after reading this book. Mercenaries, aid workers, rebels, victims of rebels and exasperated British officers all get a look in and a say in this book. I couldn't put the book down and would highly recommend it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Grimly compelling tale of Sierra Leone 21 Jan. 2006
By Flo Flumpit - Published on
Format: Paperback
Bergner tells the story of his involvement as a journalist with the war in Sierra Leone. He illustrates aspects of the conflict by telling the stories of some of those whom it affected, from the kind hearted mercenary to the man who has had both of his arms amputated by drugged out rebel soldiers. One suspects there may have been a little authorial licence perhaps in combining the stories of a many to create a symbol of universal sufferings, but despite this, the book is hugely successful in examining the causes of the conflict there and the stumbling blocks in the way of peace and the rebuilding of the country.

Bergner writes beautifully and his turn of phrase and description often stop one as one reads.

What lifts this book above the pack, however is Bergner's consistently self critical examination of his relationship with Sierra Leone and his motivations for being there. He is intensely aware of the thin line between reportage and voyeurism.
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