RogerBW's Blog

In Extremis: The Life of War Correspondent Marie Colvin, Lindsey Hilsum 17 October 2019

2012 non-fiction, following the life and death of Marie Colvin.

This is another Book of the Week condensation; the thing that's most noticeably broken up is the story of Colvin's personal relationships, since one moment she's marrying Patrick Bishop and the next he's her ex-husband. If you know anything about Colvin's life already you'll spot more gaps (her journalistic career appears to start with The Sunday Times in 1985, whereas by then she'd already been the Paris bureau manager for United Press), but overall the condensation is reasonably well-handled.

What's left is clearly a sympathetic biography, which tries to steer the reader away from Colvin's problems or at least to paint them in the best possible light. She comes over as clearly the sort of person who had to be the leader of any social group, and people who didn't go along with that were pushed away. And when there was another witness to the events, their story often differs, as with her reception by fellow journalists after her trip (disguised as a local woman) to Basra during the Iran-Iraq war: Colvin says they were all laudatory, but the other female journalist who was with her says that the men blamed the pair for making their job harder.

But this is mostly about her journalistic career, as it probably should be, and since most such careers are a series of incidents, individual moments can be excised without damaging the overall impression. Particularly effective is a description of a trip across the mountains from Chechnya into Georgia, after Colvin's line of retreat by road had been cut off by Russian forces.

I find myself at least potentially interested in reading the full book.

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