15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Hardcover)
This book describes the experiences of the author as a child in civil war-torn Sierra Leone. Beah first relates his agonising separation from family, the aimless wandering from place-to-place, and subsequently the violent events after joining the national army as a child soldier. He kills countless people and witnesses horrors all too consistent with the reports of others. However, I felt uneasy about the book. Some aspects just didn't ring true.
It was at this point that I learned of the unresolved controversy about the accuracy of the events described by the author. Personally what troubled me however was not the issue of historical accuracy. Rather it was the complete absence of remorse. Beah slits the throats of prisoners in cold blood as he looks into their eyes, shoots at them to hurry them to dig their own graves, helps bury them alive and so forth. Despite these acts against the defenceless I found little or no self-questioning, and precious little regret, only an acceptance of the view that "it was not your fault". In the end the book therefore came across as self-orientated and even self-serving. Of course much can be understood in terms of the need to survive at the time and, after such trauma, denial is an understandable self-protection. Nevertheless, I expected more from someone with time to reflect and who is now head of his own USA-based foundation to help former child soldiers. From this book you will learn something of the events of that period, be they Beah's experiences or others I am not sure it matters, but you won't learn so much about the human response to such horror and the struggle to live with having performed such acts. Perhaps a child is protected from such agonies or maybe they only emerge with more time.