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on 23 April 2012
This is likely to be a standard work on the revolution

It will not be comfortable reading for the likes of Jack Straw and Tony Blair whose embrace of the `reformed' Colonel Gaddafi led Britain into perhaps necessary but morally ambivalent paths, not least the allegations of rendition.

It is not a chronological account; Hilsum mixes first-hand eyewitness stories with the history of Gaddafi's madcap and cruel rule.

What is most interesting in the book is the insight into the sheer zaniness of Gaddafi's ubiquitous meddling, especially in African affairs - anointing himself as the `King of Kings' and upsetting many African governments by assembling the numerous legal and illegal royals of the continent. Gaddafi paid out billions in aid to assorted terrorists, not least in the IRA. He often backed competing groups in the same conflict, as in Chad. The Colonel turned south to Africa because, during his 42 years in power, he upset nearly all his fellow Arab leaders. They usually thought him mad or bad or both.

His various Ruritanian outfits are described as well as his personal vanity: he was botoxed to his eyeballs like `a sinister Middle Eastern Michael Jackson'. His flirtatiousness is recorded, for example, the well-known crush that Gaddafi had on Condoleezza Rice. The Libyan King of Kings also had the hots for Madeleine Albright, we are told.

Most of the book, however, is serious stuff. One of the central stories is the 1996 massacre in Abu Salim prison, when over 1,200 inmates were killed with machine guns and grenades. Hilsum returns again and again to this abomination which the Libyan regime tried to hide.

The author occasionally quotes poetry and sprinkles her work with the flash of a novelist's eye: disabled tanks lay `inert like giant dead cockroaches'. Hilsum is compassionate as well as literary, but above all this is a reliable work of journalism as a first draft of modern history.
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on 9 April 2012
This is a fantastic book that I could not put down. The weird, wacky, disturbing life of Gaddafi is vividly explained. Most think of him as a joke but this book also shows the despicable nature of his regime; The hangings, the backing for terrorists across the globe and the most expensive irrigation system on Earth! Alongside the life of this tyrant is the story of the revolution. From the horrendous massacre at Abu Salem, the rising in Benghazi, the fighting in Misrata and the final fall of Gaddafi. Human stories are woven throughout which help with understanding the revolution. But, this book goes deeper into the revolution exploring the jihadis, an underlying racism against Tuaregs, the tribes and the silence of the NTC. What will come after Gaddafi? This is the book I would recommend if you want to understand Libya and the revolution. I only have one point of complaint. If Lindsey Hilsum writes this well, why has it taken her so long to produce a book? Well whatever the reason I will definitely buy her next one!
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on 26 July 2012
Lindsey Hilsum's account of the last days of Gaddafi is gripping, and gives all the background required to understanding what led to the revolution: especially the events surrounding the terrible deaths of inmates at Abu Salim jail in 1996.

Gaddafi's rise to power is explained as are his many idosyncrasies... many of which led to bloodshed under his increasingly arbitrary rule. The final moments are described and so are the ins-and-outs of the revolution. You also find out about the antics of some of his children, and how oil money fuelled what had become little more than an eccentric (but very deadly) fiefdom.

Hilsum's style is straightforward and she captures "the Arab world's most bizarre dictator" well. Her reportage from the revolution brings colour and life to the text. It is not in the gung ho style of Alex Crawford's also excellent - for different reasons - Colonel Gaddafi's Hat, it is more measured and with more background information. The books, in fact, offer a perfect counterbalance to one another.

It is incredibly impressive that Hilsum produced this book so quickly after the revolution.
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on 7 May 2012
Even after following the story pretty closely, I learned quite a bit from this well written book. We have all the facts around the downfall of Gaddafi, fleshed out in a very readable way with first hand experience, case histories and anecdotes, and with the recent history of Libya woven in.

The work has been produced quickly yet is clearly the fruit of much meticulous research on top of first-hand reporting. It achieves that rare feat of being supremely authoritative and an easy read at the same time. The author spent a lot of time in Libya last year and puts herself and her reactions into the story sparingly, focusing on the Libyan people and their revolution. And it's not a hatchet job on the mad dog either, taking account of what achievements he was able to claim amid the brutality and oppression. A book to read soon before the TV images from Bab al-Aziziyah in the final days fade away.
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on 26 April 2012
Loved it, this is a fantastic book. There's no ego, she tells it like it is but with far more insight and understanding than any other reportage I've ever read. It's not just reporting from the frontline, you come away understanding the bigger picture, understanding why events unfold the way they do, not merely what happened and when. I've bought this for friends and recommend this to anyone who wants to get into the issues behind the Arab Spring.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 27 February 2013
I was frankly very disappointed with this book as I quite admire the television news reports that Lindsey Hilsum does for Channel 4 News. The style of the book is journalistic and contains many partially verbatim reports of interviews that Hilsum conducted during and after the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya in 2011. This is all very well, and provides many interesting anecdotes, but it is fractured, the interviews are disjointed and sequential interviews often relate to different periods of time. There is a lack of a coherent linear narrative that would have been more suitable for this subject matter.
The book is divided into ten chapters but these are not always helpful in finding you way through the story, and in some ways they become repetitive. It is only in the last three chapters when the narrative becomes more conventional it its approach to the actual overthrow of Gaddafi and the culmination of the revolution that the book becomes easier to follow. Strangely the death of Gaddafi is treated in just a few lines despite his central role in the book.
The work contains a good deal of information but perhaps little that is really new to anyone who follows the foreign news closely, and there are no insights or political comments on the nature of the NATO intervention or its future consequences. Perhaps it is too early to be writing a history book on the recent Libyan revolution.
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on 21 April 2012
Like the previous reviewer I couldn't believe this was Lindsey Hilsum's first book. It doesn't read like a debut, however, which isn't surprising given her decades of experience as a foreign correspondent.

Hilsum traces the Gadaffi regime from its charismatic beginnings to its bloody end. She weaves history and reportage into a compelling narrative.

A superb read from one of Britain's finest foreign correspondents.
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on 11 April 2012
This is a remarkably vivid yet carefully measured account of the forty-year horrors of the Gaddafi regime and of its hugely painful and destructive disintegration. Each manifestation of the Arab Spring has different aspects but this lucid and gripping saga, mostly drawn from her own experiences, offers valuable insights and is suffused with invaluable descriptions of what many individual Libyans had to go through.

Hilsum scrupulously avoids facile moralistic judgments while making quite plain enough the amazing horrors of Gaddafi rule.......and the often cynically self-interested contortions of Western policies. Her raportage is of the highest calibre but she has also digested her understated but remarkable experiences with admirable maturity of judgment.

Ronald Higgins
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on 3 May 2012
This is not just another foreign correspondent's book, written with breathless self importance by a visitor with nothing essential to say about the country. It is thoughtful, measured, and mature, combining a good historical account of Gadaffi's regime with genuinely interesting human stories of those who made the revolution. Hilsum doesn't shrink from the hard questions, like the role of the Islamists in the rebellion or in the state to come. The best 'history of the present' that I've read for a long time.
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on 22 July 2013
A very interesting book on the little know history of Libya and Gaddafi. The author has done a pretty good job of presenting various aspects of the 42 years of Libya under Gaddafi which includes all the Western governments and corporations desperate to sell Libya contracts. The books reads like a story which kept me interested throughout. I enjoyed the profiles of many revolutionaries and even supporters of the Gaddafi regime. I was also surprised to find out about the role played by Qatar and UAE in the revolution, two countries which I didn't believe were big players in the region. I think the only area which remained unexplained was the kernel of the revolution, who were the masterminds and what were their vision after Gaddafi had been ousted. The last chapter touches on the Islamist agenda but not to a great extent. This makes the whole book seem like a huge newspaper article which is a common fault with journalists turned-from journalists. At least it is start as much needs to be written about this land and its history.
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