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Customer reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
16
4.6 out of 5 stars


on 28 July 2017
Fascinating true story that takes you through the events that lead to a fairly uneducated girl (according to the book) but with a charismatic personality, to find herself married to a war lord and embroiled in the bloodshed after venturing to Africa to aid the victims. Interesting to observe how circumstances can lead a person to change their integrity and ideals when power comes into play.
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on 22 May 2005
Like a lot of people, I have entertained idle thoughts of going and doing aid work in Africa. This book hasn't deterred me, but through its examination of the life of one person, does 'dramatise' the issues involved.
These are...
The unexamined motivations of young people to do aid work as a way of escaping an emotionally and physically 'boring' developed world (Scroggins makes mention on several occasions the incomprehension of the African towards the kawahaja (white person) - "we'd far rather be in London")
The limited vocabulary the western media has for describing white women in Africa - dispensers of aid or venerated queens.
The impossibility of delivering aid to refugees without compromising your moral stand - the armed men control access to the refugee camps, eat first (and best) and see getting aid as a zero-sum game played against their military opponents.
The most compelling part of the book is Emma's change from aid worker to lover/wife of a charismatic military commander, and the subsequent betrayal of the ostensible motives that led her out of Europe in the first place.
Scroggins writes the book from three angles, of her own investigation in the civil wars and conflicts in the country, her meetings and subsequent documenting of Emma's life, and as necessary, a history of Sudan and the Upper Nile region. Her own love for this part of the world comes through, as does a quite clear-eyed recognition of the limitations of any options for outside parties in trying to 'aid' a country in the grip of conflict.
A reviewer elsewhere thought that Emma was closer to a Greene character in her naivete and good intentions, though I think that I would stay with the Conradian interpretation that it was the situation of the war and the cheapness of life that create a re-orientation from Western to African values. Which to our eyes is the horror.
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on 18 August 2013
I absolutely loved this book and would definitely recommend it. I read it as one reads a good novel - turning the pages quickly and feeling a sense of loss as the story ends.

I am a mother with young children and so, although I'm really interested in knowing more about Africa, in reality, I am not going to read a thick history book about the Sudan. So this book was just right for me in that it does actually give a huge amount of information about the Sudan but it also tells a strong and interesting human story.

The character at the centre of the book is endlessly intriguing. On the one hand she is naive, self centred and deluded. But she is also incredibly unusual, courageous and passionate. I really enjoyed reading about her and the story of her life raises many interesting issues.

The book is incredibly well written. The history and the current situation in the Sudan are incredibly complex. There are so many tribes and factions, so many issues and political struggles. And yet Deborah Scroggins manages to explain all this with wonderful clarity and precision. She also gives a real sense of the country, its people and its tragedy. Her writing is thorough, clear, balanced and deeply moving.

Having read this book I now want to find out more the Sudan - but I doubt that I will find many books as good as this on the subject. I can't recommend it highly enough.
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on 28 December 2015
Having lived and worked in south Sudan for over a year, this was a great way to delve into the history of the place through the eyes and the words of yet another khawaja lost in the morality of it all. It touched me, I questioned things, saw things I different lights and feel an affinity with some of the people in the book. Great insights. Couldn't put it down
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on 23 April 2014
This story of a young English girl who married a Sudanese soldier has clear resonance today - she died tragically in a car crash but he is currently the leader of the rebel army in the ongoing civil war in South Sudan. Worth reading if only to discover the brutality of all the leaders in this new country and the ongoing tragedy for its people.
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on 18 July 2014
Very well written book. There seems to be two parts to this book. Very good information on the background of some Africa countries and why they are like they are now. The other half tells the story of a woman who in my opinion was a very stupid woman. After reading this book I will never donate to any relief groups again.
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on 12 December 2015
Well written for anyone interested in South Sudan (or Sudan) it is well worth a read. Maybe not as critical of Emma as I may have liked but Deborah Scroggins obviously did her research and produced something worth adding to your reading list.
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on 17 November 2015
As a Sudanese; reading this book is uncovering so many incidents that I couldn't understand during that era. simply best of the best and can't wait to shuffle to the next page. lovely
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on 27 October 2016
Challenging and often disturbing read. Recommended to me as a way of understanding more about what's happening in Southern Sudan.
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on 19 February 2016
Very good book with loads of information about Emma, but also Sudan, the conflict, Africa...important book!
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