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4.3 out of 5 stars
8
4.3 out of 5 stars


on 13 July 2014
I had previously read 'Blood River', Tim Butcher's journey through the Congo following a route of Stanley. Although the book was an eye-opener to a part of Africa I had only vaguely registered, the reason for the journey never quite captured me. so when I read the reviews on this one, I bought it. Anjan Sundaram gained a mathematics degree at a prestigious U.S. university and, with the offer of a job for life with Goldman Sachs, threw it all up for a career in journalism in one of the most dangerous parts of the world. His motivation seems to have been the desire to make a difference with his life and reaction to growing up under the auspices of a repressive regime. (I have to add here that he went out to the Congo unaccredited and got the job as a stringer - a journalist paid by each word - out of grim necessity; he was robbed of all his money through a wrong word). Upon hearing of his decision, his mother sat down and cried.

A Congolese secretary living in America arranges for him to lodge with her family in Kinshasa, on the understanding he doesn't tell her family where she lives. She doesn't want them 'camping out' all over her new life in America. It was this aspect of Congolese life which really captured my attention. There used to be a phrase in the arts 'kitchen sink drama', that is drama depicting real life in all its reality and squalor. It is Anjan's life with his Congolese hosts which brings home the desperateness of life in the Congo for the everyman Congolese. (As he finds out, atrocities in the Congo are on such an epic and repetitive scale it is the unusual which captures the attention of the news desk editor).

Witnessing his hosts' reverses and the sabotaging of their efforts to get free of poverty by other family members, Anjan becomes, in effect, the breadwinner of the family. He learns to dread their insistence to go along with them whenever there is a family crisis as it usually means he's paying. On one occasion he is spurred on in his journalistic efforts by the family matriarch's declaring 'it's not enough' after handing over several hundred dollars to keep the family afloat. I can only guess at the resentment she felt at being so beholden. Certainly, she didn't feel any gratitude. Returning from a dangerous journey into the interior, for instance, he finds his rat infested room hasn't been cleaned. Interestingly, he doesn't mention any leave taking when finally, exhausted and having made his name he heads for the airport and home. I imagine it all ended very badly.

An absorbing read, I award 5 stars.
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on 7 September 2014
This was highly recommended to me, but I'm afraid the book really didn't fully come alive to me. At the end of the book I had no more sense of Africa than at the beginning and in that sense I found it unmemorable. I didn't find his style of writing particularly engaging and found the reading experience rather choppy and impersonal. The only scenes that really came alive for me were the petty domestic scenes he describes whilst living as a lodger.

The author does make reference to the book on Africa "The Shadow of the Sun" by journalist Kapusunski, and refers to being inspired by it. "The Shadow of the Sun" is indeed brilliant, and I cannot recommend it highly enough as an alternative.
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on 18 June 2014
This a beautifully written book; it reads almost like a novel and the author manages to weave together personal emotion and experience with a view of the wider picture. The account of family and community life in Kinshasa is fascinating, while the author's haphazard attempts to break into the world of journalism are both funny and moving.

One gripe: Describing sex alongside food as a 'basic need' that poorly paid and provisioned soldiers loot at will is a bit off. The sooner men realise that casual sex is a want that can be controlled and that women don't owe them sex. the better it will be for the DRC (and every other country). In every other area of the book the author is very sympathetic to women, highlighting the issues they contend with on a daily basis living in one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
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on 26 February 2015
Having spent six months in the DRC in 2002, I've experienced many things similar to those described in this book so I can vouch for their veracity. Likewise, I've worked in media for many years and can vouch for how power politics in newsrooms can sap moral. That said, one sign of a good book is that it takes you by surprise and teaches you new things and there are numerous aspects of Anjan's time in Congo that are new to me which brought me delight and despair in equal measure. I can recommend this book to anybody genuinely interested in real life stories, in what really goes on in the Congo. It's not an easy read, it's not an easy place but is important and fascinating and Anjan did very well to bring it to our attention.
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on 21 August 2014
I never want to visit but admire those are brave enough to go and see for themselves this tragic country
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on 3 March 2016
As one familiar with a neighboring African country over the past 20 years, I really enjoyed Stringer: it accurately accounted for so many examples of what I have also experienced over a long love/hate relationship with the African country with which I am familiar....
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on 6 September 2014
Interesting story not always easy to read becuase of style
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on 12 September 2014
Powerfully captures the reality of a country going backwards in time and the sheer lack of escape for the people of the DRC
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