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on 27 May 2004
A well written, well balanced acocunt on the scale and enormity of the problems facing Africa today and what role the Western world has played/is playing in region. The book is helped immeasureably by the evenhandedness of the narrative- the author simply reports what he sees and leaves the reader to draw his/her own conclusions, making for a thought provoking and interesting read.
One of the best books I have read this year
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on 19 June 2009
Having travelled to Sierra Leone for work I have seen many places which are mentioned in the book like Koidu, and the cotton tree in Freetown, and even had drinks in the bars mentioned!

I find it great how Daniel Bergner manages to capture certain things I see when I travel to Africa and put them down on paper. In this I mean the good and the bad, from the heights of happiness to the horrible things which occur.

The book can be slightly graphic in certain sections but with reason, and it tries to give the reader the truth of the situation.

I found it quite emotional reading this book and thing he has done a great way to describe events in a very balanced way, giving the reader a background of a variety of people who are/were involved in Sierra Leone's living history.
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on 24 August 2011
This book reveals the extremes of humanity prevalent in Sierra Leone......from the horrors of the atrocities carried out by the 'rebels' to the caring of the missionary family from the USA. A country trapped in a constant spiral of horror and calm, the peoples of Sierra Leone seem doomed to a life of war and abject poverty. Read this book if you want to understand how some African countries are never going to be stable and productive. Inhabited by a people who, in the main, are lacking in basic education and enthusisam for anything Sierra Leone will remain, by western standards a 'failed state'. A phrase from the book says foreign intervention is so ineffective in the short to long term that it is akin to 'taking your hand out of a bucket of water'. A phrase I found very appropriate having been to Freetown on many occasions. You can try to educate/coerce and encourage development at the most basic level and for a very short while there is some improvement, but within days of being left to their own devices the apathy/lethargy and couldn't care less attitude returns.

This book raises so many seemingly unanswerable questions:

Will those 'boy soldiers' who comitted the most unimaginable acts of violence ever become useful members of Sierra Leone society?...I very much doubt it. There is so much that this country and it's peoples have to overcome, in that it lacks the basic building blocks of humanity and society, that it seems doomed to remain for a very long time to come a 'failed state'.

Is there hope for Sierra Leone and those countries of a similar ilk?....Sadly I very much doubt it.

An excellent book which I recommend to anyone with the stomach to read it and who can accept the questions it raises relative to international intervention .....or the lack of it when armed with the knowledge of the horrors being perpetrated.
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on 31 May 2013
I found Daniel Bergner's account of the civil war and it's aftermath in Sierra Leone to be absolutely riveting. Bergner really took you under the skin in Sierra Leone (somewhere I've never been) to the extent that I felt I had been there after reading this book. Mercenaries, aid workers, rebels, victims of rebels and exasperated British officers all get a look in and a say in this book. I couldn't put the book down and would highly recommend it.
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