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on 21 August 2017
Arresting and totally engaging.
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on 8 August 2017
Gripping book, a very moving and illuminating story. I highly recommend this book as a brutal and touching reflection of humanity and plight the Sudanese.
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on 5 August 2017
Excellent account ; a great read
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on 7 May 2009
I couldn't put this one down. Even tried to read it on the subway when it was rattling about and I could hardly hold the book still. It is often heartbreaking but always honest and there is no self-pity in the tale, which is incredible. The only thing I didn't like was the use of a tale from his life in America to provide a backdrop to the "real" story of how he came to live in America. I found it a bit disorienting to switch between now and then without much warning. Perhaps it is just not a style that suits me very well and if you, the reader, know about it from the start it might not bother you. Apart from that I really enjoyed it. I had heard of the lost boys before but didn't know much about them. Here is one who tells what it was like to become a lost boy. The other stories are just as shocking. His details of how he struggled to adapt to America are also fascinating. How much we take for granted! Yet the book doesn't disillusion - it gives hope for the future. If Valentino can turn out well then I guess there is hope for this crazy world.
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on 5 April 2016
Truly a compelling read. It is hard to imagine that someone actually had to experience childhood in the midst of so much suffering. This, however, is true for Valentino Achak Deny, a boy who fled his war-torn village of Marial Bai, not knowing his future or whether his family were alive.

This book is written both elegantly and simply, which is hard to come by in a book of such a high caliber. Dave Eggers does not assume the reader has any prior knowledge surrounding the struggle in South Sudan and explains the situation as it was in the 1980s through to the early 2000s very clearly and coherently.

This piece of literature has many sides. It is a story of war and it's consequences, of love, of loss, of death and of freedom. Ultimately it is a story of one man's pursuit of happiness from the jaws of his country's oppressors.

What is the What is one of my all-time favourite books and I could not recommend it more.
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on 23 October 2008
Southern Soudan. War bursts. Villages are eliminated, women raped, men killed, children enslaved. Valentino Achak Deng, a young boy surprised by this whirlpool of atrocities, flees. We follow him all along his terrible journey, in his quest for some peace. The harshness of men and nature leave little room for children. Innocence is tested throughout, sometimes with an absurd strong force. Sunshines are rare in this world, and often announce worse times to come. But in the midst of this constant violence, Achak's innocence remains, unaltered. Evil is always alien and misunderstood. No worshipping for vengeance or hate, where it would have been so easy. Instead, we witness friendship, love, dreams and hope.

The author's grasp of the psychology of this african child -in these extreme circumstances- is quite remarkable. Most certainly, this is the product of long discussions between the author and his subject. It still remains quite an achievement. I also enjoyed the non-linear structure of the story, as it helps emphasise the amount of injustice endured by the protagonist, as did the factual style adopted by the author.

And of course, one cannot get out of this book without feeling incredibly sorry. Unfair from start to finnish. Hence not the easiest read around, for sure.
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on 15 October 2017
I am 70 now and have read a few books. I keep a list of the 10 most valuable books ever. "Value" can be for the sheer beauty of writing or it could come down to life-changing meaningfulness. Always though, "value" books are the ones for which I can't wait to end dinner with friends; the ones I can't wait to return to.
This book is on my list and it has been there for several years now. Others have been bumped off and replaced, but not this one.
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on 19 April 2008
What is the what by Dave Eggers is a tale of epic suffering told through the eyes of a young Sudanese boy who sees his way of life violently destroyed and together with thousands of others must face an odyssey from danger to danger and refugee camp to refugee camp until finally he arrives in the "Promised Land" of the USA, where, of course, other, different problems await. Has this amazing book slipped under the radar here in the UK, or what? 132 reviews on Amazon USA, and only three here??
Another book that will make you feel ashamed to be human, of course, as part of a race that will, for example, casually massacre defenceless villages and throw children down wells in order to clear a place for oil drilling, but Eggers, apparently working together with the real-life central character, manages to establish a beautiful narrative tone, combining charm and innocence with the heart-breaking sadness, and providing moments of warm friendship and comedy amidst the almost unbelievable cruelty and wretchedness of his everyday life. It's a tremendous achievement, though I often felt like closing it up and hiding it under a pile of cushions somewhere to avoid considering the world we've created.
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on 25 January 2012
Thank you Dave and Achak for sharing this bewildering story with such grace and warmth. I only wish, Achak, that you never had to endure any of these unimaginably depraved, cruel and heartbreaking experiences that you tell us of. The more eyes that are opened - hopefully the wiser watching we will be capable of!!!!

"What is the what by Dave Eggers is a tale of epic suffering told through the eyes of a young Sudanese boy who sees his way of life violently destroyed and together with thousands of others must face an odyssey from danger to danger and refugee camp to refugee camp until finally he arrives in the "Promised Land" of the USA, where, of course, other, different problems await.
Another book that will make you feel ashamed to be human, of course, as part of a race that will, for example, casually massacre defenceless villages and throw children down wells in order to clear a place for oil drilling, but Eggers, apparently working together with the real-life central character, manages to establish a beautiful narrative tone, combining charm and innocence with the heart-breaking sadness, and providing moments of warm friendship and comedy amidst the almost unbelievable cruelty and wretchedness of his everyday life. It's a tremendous achievement, though I often felt like closing it up and hiding it under a pile of cushions somewhere to avoid considering the world we've created."
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on 19 November 2006
Perhaps in telling the story of Sudanese Lost Boy, Valentino Achak Deng, who has seen things no one should ever see, Eggers has stumbled upon a way to truly break our hearts and inform them without being self-conscious or tragically hip. This is a tough and beautiful read, especially given the fresh horrors befalling the people of Sudan in the current conflict.
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