on 29 May 2009
It's refreshing to come across a book written by an author from another country/culture ( outside of the usual Anglo-American fraternity ) about a someplace else that does not feature in our daily discourse, yet reads effortlessly when rendered into English. Seierstad brings Grozny alive, adding bold brushstrokes of colour to the otherwise monochrome, monolithic vision many of us hitherto had of modern Russia. For me, the focus of the story was not the eponymous Angel, rather Grozny itself and crucially, Seierstad's interaction with it and its suffocating bear of a brother. I heard her speak at the Hay Festival a couple of years ago, and she struck me as intelligent, brave and sincere. If I were to pick fault, and I were to put my super-ultra-unfairly-cynical hat on, maybe the story is a little too much a vehicle for Seierstad herself.
There are some shocking and upsetting incidents described, so be warned. Indeed, if i remember correctly the opening is uber-Dickensian in its depictions.
If I could, I'd give the book a 4.5.
on 13 May 2010
This book brings into sharp focus the human condition; the fact that we are capable of the very best and, unfortunately, the very, very worst. It is an easy to digest, and very stark, reflection of a conflict brought about not only by the Great Mother Russia, but by a society that is so battered and traumatised that it is consuming itself.
Caught in the middle of the conflict, fuelled by the self interest of both the Russian Federation and Chechnyan Mafiosi, are survivors desperately trying to hang on to their humanity. Their everyday lives are beyond bleak but the author's often fleeting relationships with the ordinary, in the loosest sense of the term, people of Grozny does at least demonstrate that, even when all hope is lost, people do survive.
It is easy to read this book and lose a sense of reality, to forget that this isn't a fiction about boys killing dogs but about the violent transference of their very real suffering into an abhorent acts. The Angel herself is a voice in the wilderness, one of many trying to make sense of the conflict and oppression. Saving others seems to be the only way that she has of saving herself.
An excellent, but sometimes uncomfortable, read which will hopefully make the reader consider how lucky some of us are, but wonder how it is that some of us can treat one another in such appalling ways.
An excellent look at the tragedy that is Chechnya, as the author moves through the country, meeting families with missing sons, traumatized children being cared for by the eponymous 'angel', and even the president himself.
The trouble between Russia and this republic dates back into ancient times: Tolstoy served here, fighting local rebels. More recently the hatred felt by the Chechens for Russia was fanned by the policy of moving whole villages of Chechens to live in the wilds of Kazakhstan. And as one reads of the destruction, the brutal killings and beatings by Putin's men, one feels utter sympathy for Chechnya.
And yet the author presents a balanced picture: the Russian soldiers, young conscripts straight out of school, killed or horrifically maimed by Chechen landmines. Perceived 'special treatment' of Chechen migrants to Moscow - infuriating the Russians.
And the issue of Islamic fundamentalism, which was starting to figure in the Chechens' reason for making war on their neighbor....Does Putin have reason for his iron control over the republic?
Not a book with any answers, but extremely informative and readable.
on 23 November 2010
I really 'enjoyed' this book, enjoyed has to be in inverted commas due to the nature & content of the book. It really brings home to the reader both the good & bad of human nature. If you think you're having a bad day, you're probably not in comparison to the people mentioned in The Angel of Grozny. It's a very sad, moving & humbling book - I thoroughly recommend it if you like this type of reporting/writing.
on 25 May 2012
Once again it all boils down to oil and greed....so who cares who's in the way? Another genocide of modern times, one in which history will reflect upon as a tragedy which no one wanted to talk about.
Asne as always does a great job of making you connect to these people of whom she writes of...an exellent, harrowing read..highly recomended and at a great price on Amazon compared to the High Street.
on 22 February 2013
A fasinating book with a subject matter that is never revealed when reading news from these conflict zones in the press, the hardship yet resilience of these people is a real eye opener.
on 21 October 2014
I must buy some more books by this intelligent, sensitive woman. And brave! A fantastic, dark tale, told by people from all sides. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the region. And for those not sure, it will draw you in, make you a Seierstad fan and get you interested in Chechnya, Russia and that whole part of the world.
on 15 February 2011
This book is not bed time reading,very detail and feels as if your were on the same journey as Asne Seierstad.Love her books.
on 13 November 2012
this book was a really interesting insight into the Chechen/Russian conflicts and history. It was easy to read (excusing the actual history). I'll defintely read it again.
on 10 June 2015
Intelligent and impartial account which has you gripped from the start.