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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly moving and revealing account of Disaster and The Aftermath
Emma Larkin's account of the 2008 cyclone which tore in Burma, the subsequent ineptitude of the Burmese government to deal with the aftermath and the paradoxical efficiency in which it covered up the truth while ruthlessly suppressing opposition and protests is a disturbing read which draws you into a time and place which you know will not serve up a happy or optimistic...
Published on 26 Jun 2010 by Ghostgrey51

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but lacking "richness"
At what point does a natural disaster turn into a man-made one? This question seems to be at the heart of Emma Larkin's account of the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis which hit Burma in 2008, destroying many villages, families and lives.

The book is a three way tale: firstly that of the struggling to discover and deal with the reality that Nargis reaped, the...
Published on 11 July 2010 by Mr. T. Berriman


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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Profoundly moving and revealing account of Disaster and The Aftermath, 26 Jun 2010
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Ghostgrey51 (Wales) - See all my reviews
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Emma Larkin's account of the 2008 cyclone which tore in Burma, the subsequent ineptitude of the Burmese government to deal with the aftermath and the paradoxical efficiency in which it covered up the truth while ruthlessly suppressing opposition and protests is a disturbing read which draws you into a time and place which you know will not serve up a happy or optimistic ending. It says much for the quality of her writing and research which ensures you will read this unto the bitter end.
The book commences with a graphic account of the cyclone, then charts the apparent inexplicable attitude of the Military Regime to not co-operate with aid agencies, dwelling also upon the bureaucratic approach of some aid agencies and their senior staff on the ground. Then comes the repression.
At this juncture about a third of the way into the book Larkin turns to discuss Burmese history and the tradition of the way power is used in this unhappy land. This was most instructive up until reading this book I had always imagined the military to be a monolithic group of grey men seeing out some hidden and unfathomable agenda. Not so; Larkin reveals an Institution of Power through which characters come and go, and those who fall from grace are eradicated from history, this sounded familiar, then I read on notes she had written an account of George Orwell's Life as a civil servant in Burma. Of course she would have seen the parallels between Burma today and Orwell's 1984- chilling. She delves further revealing senior officials reliance upon indigenous beliefs in magic and spells.
The last quarter of the book returns to Burma in the aftermath, the hopelessness of the ordinary people's lives while the military pyramid of power remains in place.
Larkin is to be applauded for her return to Burma and dogged determination to remind us in this lucid, readable indictment of those in power and the exceptional courage of those who continue to oppose them, without any thought for their own safety or even success.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a natural disaster, 19 July 2010
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This is a fascinating insight into Burmese society. I'm not sure whether or not Emma Larkin set out to purely write the story of the Nargis Cyclone and got swept up and bogged down in the mindless petty bureaucracy, inaccessibility, and just pure frustration of trying to find out anything concrete about anything in Burma, but this is much more than the title leads you to expect. Larkin is clearly a very brave, determined, and intensely curious individual.

The Nargis cyclone was much more than a natural disaster. It was a disaster exacerbated by the mindless, careless, ruthless ambition for power of the rulers of Burma. Bogged down by ludicrously restrictive visa requirements, pathetic rule making and just general old-fashioned incompetence, aid never reached many parts of Burma devastated by the cyclone. It would be easy for Larkin to leave it at that, but we go deeper. Exploring some of the potential for revolution in Burma, and how the last best hope of the people is the power of the Buddhist monks, we see how even that desperate hope is fading against the ruthlessness of the ruling junta. Larking allows the reader to contrast the slow, careless reaction to the natural disaster of Nargis with the clean, cool efficiency with which even the slightest hint of rebellion is squashed. It's actually very difficult to believe that the ruling party could actually be this heartless, and Larkin does even genourously suggest that perhaps the very highest echelons of the ruling party don't actually know what's going on, as underlings censor reports in order to not be the bearer of bad news. Larkin calls this 'no bad news for the king'. Indeed, we see how new roads are laid out and towns repainted if the generals are going anywhere near them so it's depressingly plausible. (shades of the old joke about the Queen thinking how all of Britain smells of fresh paint).

This is an excellent read, much more than just being about a natural disaster, and highly recommended for anyone with an interest in Burma, or the mindset of totalitarian regimes.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Glimpse of a Broken Country, 19 Aug 2010
By 
Book Gannet (Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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On the 2nd May, 2008, Cyclone Nargis devastated the Irrawaddy Delta region of Burma. These communities of farmers and fishermen had no warning before disaster struck. And thanks to the incomprehensible actions of their ruling generals, it would be a full month before the international aid community was allowed to help.

This tragic event and the confusion that followed, as people inside and beyond Burma's borders struggled to help, despite the actions of the government, is where Larkin's book begins. Split into three sections, the opening part deals with the first month after Nargis, when the movements of Larkin and other foreigners was restricted to Rangoon, the former capital, trying to co-ordinate the aid mission with inexperienced locals.

Part two is more of a general overview of the ruling general, Than Shwe and his time in power, with a quick skip across Burma's history since the end of colonial rule. It also deals with the shocking events of September 2007, when Buddhist monks were beaten, killed, abducted and imprisoned after peaceful protests against the rising cost of living unsettled the government.

In both of these sections Larkin relies heavily on eye witnesses, some second or third hand, rumours and the propaganda-heavy official reports. As such the truth is very hard to find, giving contradictory views and murky pictures of a leader living in opulent isolation, blind to the suffering of his oppressed people.

In the final section Larkin actually visits the Irrawaddy Delta, six months after Nargis. At last able to describe the destruction with her own eyes, see the lack of support and take down personal accounts from the broken survivors, this is where the human cost is truly felt. These people have lost everything and still carry the burden of survivors guilt, seem so lost and hopeless, and that more than anything is heartbreaking.

In truth this book is not what the title claims - the true story remains untold, obscured by a bitter people, a callous government and a lack of answers. It's more an account of how secretive and paranoid the junta has become, and how little the international community appears to care. There are no answers or solutions to be found here, just a glimpse of a broken country whose hope has been destroyed bit by bit. It leaves one wondering how they will ever recover.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Emma Larkin - Everything is broken, except this book., 15 Aug 2010
By 
Caleb Williams (Liverpool) - See all my reviews
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I know the review title is terrible, but I couldn't think of anything clever. The book, is truly superb from start to finish. Covering the Cyclone Nargis tragedy of 2008 and the Burmese monk protests of 2007, Larkin paints a terrifying picture of a country under an extremely oppressive military regime. She paints a picture of terror, brutality and callousness on an unimaginable level. I wasn't much familiar with Burma and its military rule, and only vaguely recall the protests of 2007 and hearing about the shocking brutality used to quash the protests. The story of the Cyclone was new to me, but no less shocking when reading the personal stories of those involved whose lives were destroyed by the regime's refusal to allow international aid. The book delves further into the personal lives and spirituality of the Burmese people, and attempts to shed some light on the military regime and its history, but makes very clear that the regime do everything within their power to ensure that as little information on the regime escapes the country as possible.

Really good book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insight into the hidden story of Burma, 6 Aug 2010
By 
Mark Shackelford "mark shackelford" (Worthing, UK) - See all my reviews
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My first impression of the book was opening the first page and seeing "Mandalay" on the map. This brought back all sorts of memories of stories of the Raj and half-forgotten family history.

My vision of Burma (before reading this book) is based on hazy memories of stories and history, of the British Empire, and of exotic lands.

This book tells the real story of modern Burma - or, at least, as real as one journalist can get in this apparently Stalinist State - ruled by a secretive military Junta for the past few decades.

The story is hard to believe, but we have to assume it is true. In Burma, all news is "edited" to show the ruling Generals in a good light, and any bad news is supressed.

In the aftermath of a terrible cyclone which devastated large parts of the country, the junta refused the aid offered by the rest of the world, and instead, for several weeks, did nothing. When the aid did arrive much was syphoned off into their own coffers.

The author attempts to explain this bizarre behaviour - as a result of years of mistrust of foreign powers - perhaps the after affects of the British Empire? But this does not explain (or endorse) the behaviour of a government allowing its own people to suffer, just for the sake of appearences!

A heart-breaking tale - and one that brings to light the reason for the long term opposition by Aung San Suu Kyi - and why she has been under house arrest for so long.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Takes effort but you get the reward, 15 July 2010
By 
Mr. Philip Harkins "If in doubt, Smile! :-)" (London) - See all my reviews
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A heavy read and leaves you with the feeling of desperation for the people of Burma. I take my hat off to the author having to travel around the country and write under a pseudonym By the time I finished it I was glad I had persevered and almost felt I owed it to the author and the people she champions to give it the attention it deserves. It is certainly worth the effort but don't expect any light summers day reading!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A look inside one of the world's lesser-known dictatorships, 2 Nov 2010
By 
Ian Shine (England) - See all my reviews
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Everyone knows about history's and today's famous dictators. From Hitler and Stalin to Kim Jong Il, but the lesser-known story of Burma's General Than Shwe is arguably just as disturbing and a lot more curious.
From the almost laughable obsessions with shamanism and the number nine through to a serious dose of self-delusion and the anything but laughable way he prevented necessary aid arriving in Burma after Cyclone Nargis struck in May 2008, his story is fascinating and Emma Larkin presents it in an easy-to-digest way yet without dumbing anything down.
Larkin blends a recent narrative history of Burma with the personal tales of Nargis survivors and Kafkaesque stories of red tape, tying up aid agencies so that they are free to do very little, that makes this book accessible to people who rarely read history or political books.
As the book's title says, this is an untold story, one that slipped under a lot of western news radars - mainly due to the Burmese government's attitude towards accepting foreigners in Burma and their tendency to imprison any Burmese who speak out against them. For this reason, but not for this reason alone, this book is a fascinating and necessary read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The history of a near unknown disaster..., 21 Oct 2010
By 
David Lovie (Aberdeen, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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The disasters of recent years such as Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti earthquakes or Indonesian tsunami have all been massively reported and documented with global responses. This book looks to try and document and explain another recent and much less known disaster - that of the Burmese cyclone and more importantly how the Burmese government responded to it.

The book looks at Burma and the disaster of Nargis in three main parts over the authors trips to the country starting with her time in Rangoon just after the cyclone hit - looking at a time period where huge restrictions were in place to foreigners, while everyone scrambled to help the affected areas in any way they could - speaking to both foreigners and locals in the Rangoon area and collecting information on the disaster and the governments response so reading as a mix of stories relayed by those visiting and also of her attempts and time in Rangoon and what was happening there and sifting through the propaganda of the official media in Burma.
The next part looks to something of an explanation of the government themselves with some background of the general Than Shwe and the history of the Burmese government, and also their response to other issues such as the monks protests.
The final part of the book details her return around six months after the disaster when the area was starting to open up officially to foreigners where she travels to the affected regions to see something of the devastation and rebuilding going on.

All of this adds up to an enlightening report of both the cyclone Nargis disaster itself which I will admit to not knowing huge amounts about, and also about the country of Burma itself, and how it and its government operate in todays world.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A harrowing account, 13 Oct 2010
By 
M. V. Clarke (Durham, UK) - See all my reviews
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This is an important book as it highlights the plight of so many Burmese people, who not only have to endure the brutality of the totalitarian military regime and the fear they engender along with poor living conditions, but in recent years have also been devastated by the effects of Cyclone Nargis, which may have killed up to half a million people in the coastal areas of the country. Larkin's account pieces together accounts from survivors with her own research into the recent political history of the country, detailing how aid was prevented from entering the country by the military regime and how they slowed its progress to those in need. The book also offers a wider perspective on the problems facing the Burmese people due to their government's actions. Finishing the book, I shared the author's frustration at the lack of conclusion or reckoning regarding what had really happened - the regime left relatively unchallenged and the full extent of the disaster still untold.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant and Heart Rending, 1 Sep 2010
By 
A John (Uk) - See all my reviews
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Everything is Broken is a recent history of Burma. It is the story of what happened in the low lying Irawaddy Delta after Cyclone Nargis, and the political situation in Burma which made the tragedy worse.

The reason behind the book is probably best explained towards the end of Chapter 9, where the author comments, `'Given the international outcry after the cyclone - the accusations of a crime committed against humanity and the calls for delivering aid by force - I had assumed there would be some effort to establish exactly what had taken place and what the ruling generals were culpable for.'' This is the book the author felt had to be written by someone. It is very well researched, using the limited written sources available, observation, interviews and oral stories from the area. Each source is explained for veracity.

It is, in places, a harrowing book. I had to fight back the tears several times as one of the stories of what happened touched a soft spot - and these were events happening to just a few individuals. I can't even get my head round magnifying these to the numbers of people involved.

I would strongly recommend this. It is brilliantly written, keeps you turning the pages, and exposes a regime where the rulers either don't know, or wilfully ignores, the plight of its own citizens.
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Everything is Broken: Life Inside Burma
Everything is Broken: Life Inside Burma by Emma Larkin (Paperback - 7 July 2011)
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