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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazing voyage of discovery through a little-known land
Reading this book was akin to falling in love!...the only way this reader, at least, can describe the emotions generated by Jason Elliot's erudite, passionate account of his intense journey through Afghanistan. His journey is lyrically revealed and the reader drawn to share it with a vividness and understanding only a writer of such descriptive genius could engender. In...
Published on 25 Jun 2003 by Natasha

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars fantastic in parts
i started reading this book ten years ago and was gripped by his wonderful evocations of the landscape, the people and his reactions. i stopped half-way through. in a spate of reading about this region i picked it up again and realised why i had not perservered ten years ago. starting about half way through,he spends too much time on the fine details of history and...
Published 20 months ago by sue


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A light shining on Afghanistan, 23 Aug 2009
This review is from: An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan (Paperback)
This book does indeed shed light on many facets of Afghanistan. As someone who spent several years working there it brought back memories. The scenes set at the beginning in Peshawar, when the foreigners about to go `inside' were all totally paranoid are completely true - only we stayed at Dean's Hotel. It's a big rambling travel book by a writer whose exuberance for life and travel are evident throughout.
Another book on Afghanistan readers will enjoy is No More Mulberries by Mary Smith. Although this is a novel rather than a non-fiction book, it is clear the writer knows the country and the people well and the reader gets to meet a host of engaging characters and gains an authentic view of life in rural Afghanistan - as well as enjoying a really good story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars fantastic in parts, 12 April 2013
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i started reading this book ten years ago and was gripped by his wonderful evocations of the landscape, the people and his reactions. i stopped half-way through. in a spate of reading about this region i picked it up again and realised why i had not perservered ten years ago. starting about half way through,he spends too much time on the fine details of history and religious doctrine for my liking - it feels a bit as if he is showing off his knowledge. some of this is useful but i find i am skim reading waiting to get to the travelogue. that said it is a good book that really sets you thinking and paints a fascinating picture of Afghanistan's struggles before full force of the Taleban was felt and America/UK entered the scene

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars passionate,poetic,compassionate and knowledgeable, 26 Feb 2001
By A Customer
Like anything I have read on the subject this book renders Afghanistan a magnetic place particularly for the depiction of its peoples character. The author visits in tough times,scrambles through difficulties but knows his place as an outsider. It remains a bit of a boys own adventure as women are not accessible; never the less he valiantly takes us as far most western men may into the Afghan world beset by invasion and civil war with the West tinkering at the periphery.It is a timely follow on to Babur's memoirs, "A year Among the Persians", "The Road to Oxiana " and "Under a Sickle Moon" His depiction of the Simorgh's flight satisfied as well as any writing in my experience the arm chair traveller's lust.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Honest and innocent people in the hostile country, 21 Sep 2009
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Having under gone decades of warfare, Afghanistan has become a considerably dangerous, lawless and extremely inhospitable country. Jason Elliot has had a chance to explore such a perilous land with the Western colleagues and local people who guarded the Westerners while they were travelling.

The book contains several photos of people who the author travelled with and met in the streets and ruined country with remaining troops and unexploded bombs. Afghanistan is still a very much male dominant country. There is only one photo (among 30 pictures) which shows the displaced woman and her child, and she is concealing her face.

Mr Elliot describes how the Taleban changed the male dominant society for the worse, e.g. banning women walking on the street alone or entering educational establishments with males.

He travelled around Afghanistan with an erratic and destructive infrastructure, managed to visit some of the historical buildings, e.g. Kabul Museum, Shrine of Hazrat Ali, 9th century mosque of Hajji and Baymian Buddha, all of which have been pretty damaged. He met a number of innocent people who had no hesitation to talk about the decades of war, devastating experience of the prison and torture by the soviet troops and parliamentary government soldiers, a series of harrowing stories of kidnapping, raping, and missing the members of the families in the lawless state, in addition to encountering with severe shortage of medical equipment, food stuff, etc.
Kabul Museum used be the home of wealth of Asia's treasure and valuable items but after being knocked out by the Soviet missiles in 1994, scores of jewels and valuable items including a huge stone Buddha went missing, in spite of the dedicated work and maintenance carried out by the staff.

Mr Elliot explores the extraordinary culture with description of the mujaheddin and Taleban, and gives intriguing insights of the isolated country which are not shown on the everyday news.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars review of an unexpected light, 28 Feb 2007
By 
Mr. Cj Pendlebury (north lincolnshire. uk) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan (Paperback)
having read many authors on the middle east both travel and political i found jasons 'an unexpected light' admirably living upto its title. to close your eyes at night and through him feeling you are in his place, living and feeling his experiences is a remarkable feeling. I had the book on a shelf for at least 5 years but when i finaly picked it up i just coulndn't put it down. i have just ordered his latest and would consider jason on 'an unexected light' one of my favourite if not my favourite author. he gives the reader a wonderful insight into his world
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Capture the night with Elliot, 9 July 2001
By 
Mr. A. Khan - See all my reviews
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Jason Elliot does well in conveying his perceptions, thoughts, feelings and experiences in the book. Admitadley i don't read travel books, this one i read for personal reasons. It really had me captivated, being of ethnic afghan origin myself (but brought up in the west) Elliot does well to understand and articulate the prevelant cultures existing. Whilst a westerner himself illustrating these well.

There were no signs of arrogance or preconceptions from him, he wrote what he saw. A few minor criticisms would be that he didn't understand the term "Ahlul-Kitaab" (people of the book) in islaam, he says they are non-disbelievers, infact, they are a different group of disbelivers.

Also, i thought his focus on Tajik (ethnic eastern persians), Uzbek and other minority cultures, whilst i felt neglecting the other Afghans (Pushtuns) and their history. since they along with the Tajik are the main eastern iranians of the ex-satrapy.

He also had some resentment to the Taliban, and i thought to the Pashtuns, since he stayed away from the deep south and East, but 4/5 years after the book has been published they have done well to restore peace and stability (and control) in the region (which Elliot himself admits he could not foresee).

Excellent insight into a country which is tired from interference that always resists.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great travel writing, with history and adventure thrown in., 3 Oct 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan (Paperback)
With an easy grasp of the history which so cloaks this strange land, the author weaves a rich strand of story telling between his adventurous encounters with the locals over a decade of modern visits to Afghanistan and the events of the more distant past...I had been given new insights into this long suffering people who have been wrenched back into the international spotlight of media attention. The book permits a better understanding of the range of experiences that foreign invasion followed by civil war have brought Afghanis in the last 20 years, while setting this in the context of many centuries of foreign interventions.
The book is full of entrancing descriptions of people and places which paint a glowing picture of this mountainous country which cast such a spell over the author that he had to return to it again and again. A wry aspect of the book is the way that the author occasionally passes comment upon his youthful recklessness and naivity from a more mature standpoint.
The book in my view rates comparison with the best travel writing by its judicious mix of adventure, history and cultural insight.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpected light on my bookshelf, 4 May 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Unexpected Light (Hardcover)
An individual view of a tragic yet fascinating country which challenged a lot of my preconceptions of Afghanistan. Reads like a thriller rather than a travel book. More hair raising tales than you can shake an unexploded Russian mine at! However a thoughtful and informative book as well as an adventure yarn. Elliot includes enough of the turbulent and exotic history of the region to put in all into context. Highly recommended.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an extraordinary book,beautifully written,acutely observed ., 1 Nov 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan (Paperback)
This is probably the best travel book I have EVER read.Jason Elliott writes in a hauntingly simple yet beautiful manner. His observations are insightful and often disturbing. You are left with an understanding of a nation in torment that is holding on by the skin of its teeth to a glorious and savage past.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best travel book I've ever read, 7 Dec 2001
By 
Andrew Lale (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan (Paperback)
I have read many travel books, some of them outstanding, but never one as complete as this. It is full of wonderful descriptions, acute observations and a mountain of unsuspected information. In the last few weeks, I have heard many ignorant and prejudiced views about Afghanistan and Afghans, very often purporting to be journalism. Once you've read this book you would have to disagree.
As one of the worlds great crossroad nations, prestigeous civilisations have crossed Afghanistan throughout its history and left their imprint on the its peoples. I for one would love to go there and meet these fascinating people and visit the living cities and villages, and the archaelogical sites which remain from its complex past.
Jason Elliot is a marvellous wordsmith and teller of stories.
This is a book to revel in.
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An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan
An Unexpected Light: Travels in Afghanistan by Jason Elliot (Paperback - 20 July 2007)
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