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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 11 October 2008
this is definitely a must read book. once I started reading it I could not put it down. Souad shows alot of courage and bravey after everything she has been through she has spoken up about it. I was in tears several times reading this book and I dont care what anyone says this book is definitely fact not fiction. There are issues like this going on in other parts of the world not just the arab part and women like souad are doing a great deal to bring these issues into light.
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on 3 July 2004
i read this book in two evenings i couldnt put it down. what a fantastic woman souad is she has come from the most appalling life and has survived horrors that no one should ever witness or live through.
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on 1 September 2007
In recent years, two best-selling titles have appeared on the subject of honor killing in the Arab world. Norma Khouri's Forbidden Love (also published under the title Honor Lost) and "Souad's" Burned Alive were both published in 2003. In that fateful year, while the international media raced us toward the invasion of Iraq, these books evidently met a public appetite for information about the Middle East.

Both are entirely undocumented memoirs, which ask the reader to take the story on trust. In the case of Forbidden Love, this trust was misplaced. An investigation by Jordanian women's rights activists showed that the author was a complete fake, having lived in America all her life and invented the story. Burned Alive, by contrast, has not been subject to public scrutiny. It is, however, a controversial text.

An important point to note is that Burned Alive is a work of "recovered memory." None of the reviewers who praised this book found it worthwhile to mention, but it is a very pertinent detail. Souad did not always know of the events she recounts. In the past, she used to tell people that her burns were the result of an accident. This misunderstanding was widespread - for some reason, the medical staff who treated her at Lausanne hospital were not informed that the burns were the result of an assault. She writes, "The people around me in this hospital did not know my story." Only recently, after years of mental health problems, has she remembered, and to remember torments her: "I would like to forget all these horrible things completely, and for more than 20 years I unconsciously succeeded in doing just that."

According to interviews given when Burned Alive was published, Souad even forgot how to speak Arabic. She is said to have altered her appearance through plastic surgery.

Some psychologists and scholars regard all works of recovered memory as fictional. Even those who are willing to regard them as valid stress that they are assessed differently from ordinary accounts, and need to be confirmed by the use of other sources.

There are similarities in most works of recovered memory and unreliable memoirs. The authors' stories are extreme, they are the victims of every conceivable circumstance, and everyone they meet tends to be a sadist. Their survival is always a miracle.

The book is full of ludicrous absurdities e.g.
Burned Alive describes how she witnessed murder after murder. She saw babies smothered and her sister strangled; a companion on a bus trip is murdered by the driver. At the village shop, one of the customers is decapitated and her head is paraded around the village. Souad was also subject to many attempts on her life. Each of her parents tried to kill her, on separate occasions, but they failed. This is surprising, as they seem to have killed off as many as eight of their other children. ocieties that practice the infanticide of females cannot hide the fact - it soon declares itself in their population statistics. The West Bank population shows no imbalance of males over females - their ratio is the same as that found in Spain, France, and Australia.

When Souad was around 20 years old, she fell pregnant out of wedlock, having been seduced by a young man who lived in the house next door. She claims that she did not know his father's name, an unusual situation in the close society of a Palestinian village.

This is a remarkable story. The book makes many grave allegations, yet produces no evidence at all. Rana Husseini's reaction to Forbidden Love - she was "astonished that Khouri's book contained not a single reference for any of the thousands of 'facts' it reported" - could be applied with even more effect to Burned Alive.

Souad's village is described as an isolated hamlet, so remote that you will not find it on any map. It could only be reached by an unpaved road that was almost impassable. Her family was deprived to such an extent that they had no shoes to wear even when attending a wedding. However, elsewhere in the text, Souad says that her sister was murdered in the family home by being strangled with a telephone cord.

This is a serious error. None of the villages of the West Bank, which have the features she describes, were connected to the telephone line as early as 1977. In fact, the vast majority of smaller communes still have no phone lines. If Souad's village had a telephone line, by definition it would be on the map and would also have had a paved road and a school.

Souad shows no understanding of the layout of the West Bank, and she claims that one of her childhood memories was "working near Tel Aviv with my father when I was still small, maybe about 10 years old. We had been taken there to pick cauliflowers for a neighbor who had helped us harvest our wheat. There was a fence that protected us from the Jews because we were practically on their land."

Why is Souad's neighbor on a field near Tel Aviv, if she lives in a village 40km (25 mi.) deep into the West Bank? No Arabs from the West Bank are allowed to own or lease fields in Israel, and only adults are allowed to visit Israel for employment. Even during the 1970s, access was severely restricted and the border closely policed.

The text actually suggests that the people of the West Bank have control of their own legal system. "The land there is beautiful, but the men are bad. In the West Bank, there are women who fight for legal protection. But it is the men who vote the laws [Des hommes qui votent les lois]." This is a preposterous statement. How can anyone describe the West Bank in these terms? The Palestinians of the West Bank have no functioning legislature. They are subject to laws made in Israel and Jordan. They have no state.

Burned Alive is also inaccurate on the details of private life. Souad's only description of the domestic customs of Palestinian women is that of pubic-hair removal. It is obviously an important topic to her, as she mentions it on five separate occasions. Yet she reports this practice inaccurately, "Hair on certain parts of women's bodies is thought of as dirty and I can't stop thinking about this. We don't remove hair from our legs or our underarms, only from the vulva." She also claims that the pubic patch is removed for the first time as a ritual before the wedding.

Arab women practice hair removal - but it includes the legs, underarms, pubic area, and stomach. The idea of removing only the pubic hair strikes Arab women commentators as bizarre. A complete depilation is customary before the wedding, but it is not the first experience - body hair is removed from the time of puberty. Every Arab woman knows this. Souad's ignorance is astonishing.

There are too many improbabilities in the story told in Burned Alive. If one credits the Palestinian medical staff with wishing their patient to die, it is inexplicable that she survived. She was in this hospital for at least six weeks. Even in optimum conditions, the nursing of burn victims is an exacting task that often fails if infection takes hold, or if organ failure sets in through dehydration and shock. Effective medical aid has to be given immediately, and a patient with 60 percent burns cannot wait for days or weeks.

When describing the hospital, Jacqueline stresses that the medical staff could not act differently because of their ingrained cultural values. Even the one doctor who cooperated with her could do no more than ask her, as a foreigner with different values, to aid Souad. He would not offer effective medical assistance. Jacqueline tried to persuade him to move the patient elsewhere: "The argument makes sense to him because he is a doctor. But he is also from [the West Bank], like the nurses. And as far as the nurses are concerned, Souad or any other girl like her should die."

The authors of Burned Alive are not willing to name the hospital or the orphanage where these supposed events took place.

In order to understand this book, one needs to look at the people who are promoting it. One reason why Burned Alive has been accepted without any form of documentation is because of the understanding that the anonymous tale is supported by reputable charities. As one reviewer noted, "Souad's story has been verified by Fondation Surgir. It's director is Jacqueline Thibault - the books co-author!! and the foundation worked with the administration set up by the Israeli Defense Forces!!

The influence of Israeli political culture might be the explanation for one of the minor puzzles of Burned Alive. Although it is set in the Palestinian community, it avoids the words "Palestine" or "Palestinian." In the original French text, the authors refer to "the people of the West Bank" and occasionally to "Arabs." Translators have followed this to varying degrees. The refusal to use the word "Palestinian" is a characteristic of literature from the far-right wing of the Israeli political spectrum. They believe that the people who live in Palestine are not a genuine nation and should not be described as such.

For the record, Palestinian social services deny that children in their care can die without explanation, or that they employ people who wish to murder their charges. If Palestinian hospitals have a "system" that involves the systematic fatal neglect of honor-killing victims, why has this not been observed and recorded? Authorities in this field, such as Professor Nadera Kevorkian of the Hebrew University, a distinguished writer and activist, have never even mentioned such an idea.

Thank God for giving us an intellect which makes us able to not just swallow everything we read no matter how absurd.
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on 15 May 2004
This Book is amazing, it shows the courage and desperation of Souad who was burnt alive by her brother-in-law because she had sex before marraige and became pregnant. In Souad's village it was a crime to have sex before marriage and was punishable by death, if she wasn't killed it would bring shame to her family. Souad's brother-in-law was sent to do the "honour" killing. He poured petrol on her face and set her alive. Souad had a very distressing life, the men in her village beat the woman and girls and Souad's father beat her, her sisters and mother but her brother was not. Men in the village were treated like gods and women were worthless. Many girls & women were killed in the village and Souad was one of them but she did survive.
Soaud was burt and left to die in a hospital nobody would help her only a women, Jacqueline who rescued her and took her to Europe. This is where Souad was helped and found love in her husband and her three children.
This book is 5 star rated, you just have to read it. Its one of those books that will stay with you forever and you wont want to put it down.
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on 12 April 2006
Real life stories are not really my kind of read but this book kept me hooked for days (the time it took me to read it!). Although I know that honour killings happen I did not know the true extent to 'the way of life' that it is to certain cultures. It is a very sad story and I beleive that the book gives a very honest account of the life that this woman has suffered and still is suffering in. I would definately recommend this book, once you pick it up it is very hard to put down!
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on 8 March 2006
I'm not much of a reader unless it's about something I'm interested in and this book fascinated me because it's a true story which I love to read.... I couldn't put this book down, it's one of those compelling true stories that you've got to find out what happens next, why and how this person could endure the torture she went through....
Burned Alive is about a Muslim girl and her life, very sad, but makes you realise that how they live, what their life is like a little bit about their customs and the sadness of their existence of a female in their world.... An attempted honour killing that goes wrong, she survives being burned alive and talks freely about her life.... I know this is a modern world that we live in but I feel that some westerners are blinded by other cultures as we don't understand them or why they believe what they belive, it's all down to up bringing and teaching, this book defintely opens up your eyes to another world, one you wouldn't think still exists but it still happens all over the world.... How free we are from the ignorance of what goes on, the slavery that's still out there or other people, that think their lives are normal when in fact it's only normal in their world not ours.... Souad definitely thought that what she was told was true, it wasn't until she escaped that, that she then found out what our lives are like and that children can play freely, go to school even if they're females, wear shoes, simple things we take for granted....

As we know no different like Souad and their culture knows no different to whats outside their own village or world....
It's what inbreeded into you and what you see and teach your children, what they learn from their parents and culture, and the viscious circle carries on.... This book shows you all this....
I know there's modern families out there that are changing things for the next generation, just like Souad is trying to do by writing this book and notifying us what's it's like in her culture, how woman are treated, but it'll take time for a lot of cultures before it changes, if ever it does....
Souad explains that her culture tells her what the outside world is like when infact they're brain washed into believing what their family and village tells them.... She finds out in her new life that it's not so and that woman are free to where shoes, walk and talk to men without being branded a whore, or being beaten for not doing something correctly or the way it should be done.... Our ignorance of other cultures and their of ours, their naivity of things outside of their own existence.... It's a mans world in some places and woman are at the bottom of the list, they're door mats and worth nothing, a burden to their families, slaves to their parents or husbands.... It's unimaginable to me how this can still go on and the braveness and courage of this one individual to speak out about a tramatic event in her life, when at times she wanted to die, she wanted to give up.... About her savour Jacqueline and the SURGIR organisation that saved her, about her reunion with her son, an emotional story that will truly touch your heart strings and make you realise how lucky we are not to live that way.... Everyone has their own beliefs but the cruelty of what Souad endures and others alike that are left behind and will continue to endure this type of treatment....
Worth every penny....
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on 14 October 2011
This story was soo Sad knowing it was a real life story and a women had to go through all of this made it worse...

Don't know how humans can treat eachother in this way... but glad she recieved the help she needed in the end to

This book is 5 star rated, you just have to read it. Its one of those books that will stay with you forever and you wont want to put it down.
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on 8 February 2010
A riveting read! I could not put it down. A wonderfully written account of the horrors suffered in societies where women are second class citizens.
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on 8 March 2006
I'm not much of a reader, I love true stories, I have read Last Man Down and various other true stories, which tugged my heart strings and so did this one but in a different way... This book bought a reality to what goes on in different cultures, opened me eyes to things that we know nothing about, and can't believe would still go on in a modern world but they do....
Burned Alive, is about an attempted honour killing and how she survived being burned alive.... I know this is a modern world that we live in but I feel that some westerners are blinded by how intense the culture is within some sectors and how bad the women get it.... How free we are from the ignorance of what goes on, the slavery that's still out there for what we see as backward cultures to our normal life in the western world.... Souad explains what's it's like and how she lived and survived a harrowing experience that no one can ever imagine.... She's such a strong person to be brave enough to continue with her life when at times she just wanted to give up as she saw no end to her pain and misery.... Such a compelling story, emotional and a must read.... About Jacqueline her savour and SURGIR the organisation that has helped her get out and continue a life with a new family, and the reunion with her Son... Souad's devotion to continue and shows the world what goes on behind closed doors and ignorance of the westerner world. She shows how lucky we are not to endure this type of torture and life....
As we know no different like Souad and their culture knows no different to whats outside their own and these type of things still go on all over the world.... It's what inbreeded into you and what you see and teach your children, what they learn from their parents and the culture, the viscious circle carries on....
I know there's modern families out there and now Souad's family is one of them, that are changing things for the next generation but it'll take time for a lot of cultures before it changes, if ever it does.... It's all down to IGNORANCE in all cultures and societies, ignorance to whats going on in the world outside of their own.... This book really shows you whats still happening now in this modern world.... Plus the ignorance that they're taught, Souad now knows that what she thought was a normal life for ever woman, was infact not, she now knows what's it like outside of her village, is not what she has been told by her culture and family and how brain washed people are in her culture, how women have to take this type of life in their culture, some might be lucky not to get this type of lifestyle and have nice husbands or fathers, it really opens up your eyes to things... Definitely worth every penny plus more....
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on 9 March 2016
This book is full of lies and contradictions. After reading a few pages, I thought this cannot be a true story. I then looked up the reviews to confirm my suspicion. It is a propaganda book against Palestinians. The writing is so simple and it is very repetitive.
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