12 November 2007

A long way gone, memoirs of a boy soldier - Ishmael Beah


If you told me that this book was ghost written, I wouldn't believe you. If you told me that it was written by several people, of various educational backgrounds, I would have no problem believing you. At time lyrical and engaging, the prose becomes, at other times, simple and didactic. There is no doubt that Ishmael true life account of his time spent as a boy soldier in his native Sierra Leone is a gut wrenching story. For that reason, I feel awkward criticizing it. However, quite frankly, there are many chapters that are boring, even tedious. Beah skips over major parts (or what seem like major parts) in one sentence but elaborates on mundane details in other parts. To make matters worse, the ending seems to just stop - I realize that may seem overly obvious, but the ending leaves all sorts of information out.

To say something good about the book, I will say that the topic is clearly interesting. There is a chronology of events at the back of the book that is quite helpful and succinct. One wonders why it wasn't included earlier in the book, and why Beah does a horrific job in describing the state of affairs in his native Sierra Leone. Such context would have lent an air of credibility to the book, not to mention create a tangible feeling of real world danger rather than a badly told story. There are moments of lucidity, and poignant writing. I get the feeling that this young man is a gripping speaker, but his writing leaves something to be desired. Still, if you are interested in the topic of child soldiers, or African affairs, the read is worthwhile, if nothing else, simply for its brevity.

My squad was my family, my gun was my provider and protector, and my rule was to kill or be killed. The extent of my thoughts didn't go much beyond that.