4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A great story but a terrible book.
, 5 Feb. 2014
This review is from: Under the Wire: Marie Colvin's Final Assignment (Hardcover)
I don't often write reviews but in this case I felt I had to offer a balance to the baffling amount of 5 star reviews this book received, because a couple of chapters in I was annoyed that I'd been encouraged by them. I can only imagine they were given by friends and family of the author.
Here's the thing: Under The Wire is a great story but a terrible book. It's difficult to criticise it without feeling mean-spirited because Paul Conroy is undoubtedly a brave and well meaning guy. But Paul is a photographer not a writer and that fact becomes apparent very early in. To be fair the blame for how bad this book is has to be shared 50/50 with whoever is supposed to have edited it.
Here's a quick run down:
- Clever jumping back and forth through time and places to build up back story.
- A gritty insight into the horrors of modern day war.
- The story of brave people trying to do the right thing.
- Utterly dreadful childishly bad writing that distracts from what should be a compelling story.
- Paul "constantly" "tirelessly" "frequently" overuses adverbs that break up the flow of the narrative.
- There's no insight into the repercussions of Marie Colvin's death.
- I don't believe any conversation in this book happened as described. For some bizarre reason, when people talk to each other, they all call the person they're talking to by their first name. EVERY time. EVERY person. EVERY conversation.
"Paul do you think it's safe here?"
"Marie I don't know what to say"
"Wa'el how are you?"
"Paul I'm fine today"
"Marie we are getting into the car now"
"Paul I'm good"
(Not actual conversations from the book!) It's completely jarring and irritating and ruins the flow every time.
- Just bad bad writing, trying to be poetic with incomprehensible descriptions. Childishly bad stuff:
Here's an actual paragraph from page 177:
"We continued on our cross-country route as the sun bade us it's daily farewell. Slowly, with the silent and stealthy movement of a cat stalking it's prey, we were robbed of vision. Night fell upon us and with the darkness came the fear. It wrapped its invisible tentacles silently around all of us in the vehicle. No one spoke. The night belonged to the hunter and the hunted."
" "What?" I replied in shock. The news was like a smack in the face, so powerful we're the words that tumbled from their lips."
"I'm sure I could have dismissed the whole affair as a rather quirky dream. Sadly, this wasn't the case and, just when I thought I had seen it all, there was more to come."
- Weird continuity errors: on one page he's walking down the street in winter, a few paragraphs later he's talking about how it's an autumn day.
- Constant childish talk about how much he loves cigarettes. There's "lovely" cigarettes in every chapter. Rarely have anything to do with the story, he just likes taking about cigarettes. A lot.
To sum up: Paul is a great guy, a brave photographer and an admirable human being but he is one of the worst writers I have ever read and this a painfully bad book to read. It's an amazing story but it should have been written by someone else. Ultimately the editor/publisher has a lot to answer for, bad editing and shameful use of Marie Colvin's name to sell Paul's bad writing. Absolutely not a 5 star book.
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