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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The bugs in your own shirt are the ones that can really hurt you,
This is an example of how Victoria Clark introduces a sub-chapter (President Salih's present problems). And indeed throughout her exploration of Yemen's history and character she really allows the reader to comprehend the hardy tribalism, the extreme violence fed by so much easy weaponry, the jihadist roots, the buffeting by outside forces, the corruption and poverty, the surprisingly dogged optimism, the Islamic variations, the scandalous qat cultivation ... it is all there. She explains why Aden is "the Cinderella of the East", how the various rebellions reoccur, why separation is still on some tribe's agenda, how Marxism took root here only to fail, and importantly why there is such an economic gulf separating Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The format is colourful and easy to read. The State and The Tribes: "the manner in which the competing authorities are constantly being challenged, tested and renegotiated" gives the book its superb title. I would have liked more informative maps and more photos, but the geography is explained well. I took this book on a recent holiday to Morocco and I was know as "Mr Yemen" because I always had this book with me (and open!).
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The real Yemen,
Dancing on Heads of Snakes,
The book tells you what is really going on The Yemen.
Author travels around speak with high ranking tribal officials and government officials - anyone who wants to know history of Yemen and where is Yemen going, then buy this book it's worth every single pound.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tribalism,
I wish this book had been available 25 years ago when first we worked in Yemen, tribalism is a problem in every culture as we forget the unity of all, this explains much of the nature of Yemen's difficulties and with understanding comes acceptance and solutions.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars yemen,
This excellent book deals with the the history of Yemen and how the present situation in the cocntry developed.
The history is divided into four a)1539-1918 b)1918-1967 c)1967-1990 and d)1990-2000.All the revolutions,assassinations,murders,developments of communism in the south and eventual unification are well documeented.
The second part records the development of problems with Al-Queda and terrorism.This section is very well written and erudite and the aauthor is to be congratulated.
Ther is a good bibliography and notes section but the pictures are of poor quality.
A book to be highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic gossiping,
Clark's was one of the books I bought before my posting to Yemen. Comparing hers to those other books, the greatest achievement of the author is putting Yemen's history and present in a very digestable, easy-to-read and, I would say, cosy framework. It is not overloaded with details (at the exepnse of comprehensive and accurancy, no doubts) but this broad-brush picture allows one to form a holistic impression of Yemen. This favorably compares this book to others, such as Dresch's A History of Modern Yemen (which I also bought). Dresch's book may be a useful source of academic information about Yemen but I would not recommend it to a novice like myself. With so many fine details, names and places,I failed to get a picture of the country: it well may be somewhere there but you simply can't see the forest for the trees.
Despite being essentially a travel book, Clark's book is suprisingly well researched for this kind of a book, and the author introduces statistics and other less easily digestable stuff in a very natural and unobtrusive manner. Some reviewers have noted that the author seems to be gossiping at times, and this is true. It is this gossip however - an authentic gossip, I should add - that makes this book particularly interesting because it provides you with the feeling of the country, not just cut and dried facts. Yes, this is exactly what people (=men) are talking about during afternoon qat chewing sessions. This is what I hear from my Yemeni friends and colleagues. I only wish the author could integrate women's perspective to a greater degree: this is still a world to which we, men (particularly expats), have very little access.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent insight into Yemen,
Once I opened this book I was unable to put it down and I managed to read it in about 5 days. The book is split into four sections that discuss Yemen from a historical prospective until the present day.
Victoria Clark has done a great job of detailing Yemen and it's history. At times the book reads like travel guide, as she describes the people she met and the dangerous situations she got into during her travels.
As an introduction to Yemen this a great book to start with and I would highly recommend it to anyone.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Insights into Yemen,
Excellent informative work,of considerable insight. The work is very well written, easy to follow and comprehensively annotated.
An first class read.
5.0 out of 5 stars fascinating reading,
This review is from: Yemen: Dancing on the Heads of Snakes (Kindle Edition)
A very informative and detailed historic account of the history of Yemen.
The book is even more useful if read by a Yemeni national as one can relate far more to the facts and accounts of the author.
5.0 out of 5 stars Once I have them (bourgeousie), I can then discuss getting rid of them...,
A wonderfully incisive piece of work that covers the intricacies and details of Yemeni feudalism and tribalism. I only wish that the book had been published (and that I read it) before working in Saudi Arabia. For any expat or contract worker this is a MUST.
4.0 out of 5 stars Meticulous, daring research but sloppy copy-editing,
Hats off to Victoria Clark for going into places and meeting people that few, if any, other journalists (especially women) would ever dream of doing, and especially against government advice.
It is amazing how welcome Clark was made by such potentially dangerous contacts: maybe her Yemeni birth counted for something. Thus her fascinating stories of encounters with powerful tribal leaders, dissidents, and even named terrorists make for gripping reading.
Each chapter starts off with a personal anecdote that sets the scene for a broader investigation and analysis of complex elements of Yemeni society. The tone tends toward the chatty so it is easy to read. In contrast, the analysis is multi-faceted and the author explores many possible hypotheses to explain the phenomena that she observes. This is definitely not a superficial, one-dimensional or partisan view of Yemen.
Yet despite all these important advantages, the book could have been much better from a technical point of view: hence my four-star rating.
Clark was very poorly served by her publisher. The copy-editing is sloppy, if not negligent, with grammatical and typing errors on every page. Clark's editor allowed her to indulge in a style of writing that borders on gossip, expressed as run-on sentences containing multiple embedded clauses. The initial subject is eventually lost in this maze and the reader has to parse the sentence in order to get the full meaning. References to "he" in such sentences make it almost impossible to know who is being further described. Simple direct statements would have built a much more coherent argument.
The running metaphor of the book's sub-title is repeated ad nauseam using the same words, often without the necessary apostrophe for snakes heads (sic). Yes, we get it, so just refer to the snakes or the dancing, not the whole phrase every time!
It also appears that the book's chapters were written out of sequence with the result that introductory references to people and acronyms arrive long after a topic is first mentioned -- again a copy-editing failure.
As other commentators have said, the one map provided is too simplistic. Much better maps of all the tribal regions and important towns and cities mentioned in the text were needed to facilitate understanding. Similarly, a glossary of main characters and / or a family tree of tribal relationships would have been useful. The photos are nice but do not add much value, only illustrating some of the anecdotal stories told by the author. In contrast, photos of Sanaa and Aden would have been useful, together with pictures of the terrain in the northern highlands, eastern coastal plain and southern highlands. Photos of typical tribal dress would also have been interesting.
Finally, a question for the author: was it necessary to participate in the afternoon qat chews in order to elicit information from her interviewees? Does this have repercussions on one's health? We are never told.
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Yemen: Dancing on the Heads of Snakes by Victoria Clark