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Blinded by the Sunlight: Emerging from the Prison of Saddam's Iraq Hardcover – February 17, 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollins; 1 edition (February 17, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060588195
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060588199
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,101,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Soon after bombs began falling on Baghdad, Newsday reporter McAllester was seized by agents from Saddam Hussein's security service and taken to the most feared place in Iraq: Abu Ghraib prison. McAllester was stripped, interrogated, given a pair of filthy pajamas and left alone in a tiny cell to agonize about his fate. Eight days later, with as little explanation as he received upon his arrest, McAllester was taken to the Jordanian border and released. Shortly thereafter, he returned to Iraq to try to get some answers. A riveting account of one man's frightening ordeal, this book is also an indictment of decades of oppression by Iraq's fallen dictator. McAllester examines Abu Ghraib's history (the prison was designed by an American company), interviews some of its victims (including a U.S. citizen imprisoned unjustly for seven years) and catalogues its horrors (torture, rape and execution). In one of the book's most affecting episodes, McAllester tracks down his own interrogator at Abu Ghraib, the man who decided whether he would live or die. McAllester admits he betrayed his Iraqi driver under questioning (it was "a calculated risk, ringed with cowardice"); he also acknowledges that journalists during Saddam's rule were tainted by collaborating with the regime (it was a "dirty, self-compromising process," he writes). He is similarly blunt in his assessment of the postwar occupation, which, he says, is undermined by poor planning and a lack of understanding of the Iraqi people. A Pulitzer-winning reporter with experience in numerous international hotspots, McAllester has produced a fascinating look at life in one of the most repressive regimes on earth. 16 pages of color photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Using his brief incarceration in an Iraqi prison as a focal point, a journalist narrates a harrowing first-person account of life in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Held for eight days on suspicion of being an American spy, McAllester returned to Iraq after the collapse of Saddam's regime to search for his captors. Together with his own personal recollections of his imprisonment, he interweaves the larger story of a nation held in a different type of captivity for more than two decades. As McAllester struggled to cope with the trauma of his ordeal and unexpected release, so too did an Iraqi people suddenly liberated by the swift collapse of Hussein's brutal dictatorship. Linking one man's search for answers with a nation's struggle for identity, this reflective chronicle is certain to be an immediate best-seller. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 20, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a British expat living in the U.S. of A. I was curious about the author's experiences in Iraq given that both my native and adopted countries started the current debacle.
I don't know what the other reviewers from the UK saw in this book ("riveting prose?") but I was quite disappointed. Poorly constructed narrative that wandered this way and that often as not without reaching any point at all. Insights that were so obvious I didn't feel they merited the term. The author may be a good journalist but this book was poorly conceived and executed. Apparently this is his second book. I won't be reading his first.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
the insights in this book appear so obvious or so flawed they barely merit registration. documenting the horrors of one regime and sanctioning the invasion of another are different things the author fails to have registered. one can't help feeling he's been blinded by his own, clearly appalling, experience. his insights are neither original or compelling. perhaps, as other reviewers have suggested, he should have stuck to describing his own experience and not trying to play the expert he clearly isn't. the events since this rather flaccid book's publication have shown him to be very far from the pulse of iraq. i recommend he adopt the better courage of his colleagues and stay out there long enough for his opinion to merit attention.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dan Blankenship on September 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This novel answers the question, "What do Iraqis think about Saddam, their government, and their country."

Matthew McAllester shares conversations with Iraqi civilians who lived under Saddam's rule since 1979. This book provides a glimpse of what the average Iraqi was thinking before, during, and after the war.

McAllester has to be a little crazy to go after a story so dangerous. I'm glad he took the risk, because I believe it makes for a great read. His story backs up the atrocities so many have already reported; Saddam's regime needed to fall. That is so obvious after reading this book.

There are a lot of negative reviews on this book. I have to assume others are not happy with McAllester's interpretation of what he discovered in Iraq. But this is HIS story, not theirs.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
this book was a way mixed bag but not meriting some of the praise or the criticism given on this sight. this author does emotions superbly; analysis not so well. perhaps he should have decided earlier what which he wanted this book to be about.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By mary on April 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Reading the reviews of this book it is remarkably striking that the ravi-est of reviews are coming from england where the author himself comes from. Could it that our transalantic cousins simply prefer this writing or could it that be his friends and family are trying to sway us into wanting to buy this book? Who knows. Fact is, it's a waste of time. Dull, obvious observations transposed with compelling personal fact. But ultimately has nothing to teach us from a conflict that badly needs to do so. I worked for several months in Iraq in the post war period and the Iraq I saw is not that that Matthew McAllester constructed around himself. I don't know where he was but I was in Iraq. Maybe he should have stayed longer. I worked in Kosovo and thought his book of that war fabulous. Maybe why this one is so disappointing. Or maybe it was too soon. Either way, as ever day goes by, his thesis proves more wrong by the day.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I went to hear Matthew McAllester speak a couple of months ago in Chicago and I was impressed with his articulateness and was really interested in reading about his personal story. That personal story was barely present in this book and what was there was a jumbled mess. A weird stream of consciousness that will confuse you even if you're well-versed on recent Iraqi history. Did McAllester write this book, or did he just give his assembled notes to some editorial assistant who tried to write a story around them? I wanted to know more about his relationships with the other journalists, with his girlfriend, with his family. The attempt at political analysis is so clearly off-base I can't believe that even the author believes it. I don't get the disparity between the moving talk I heard and the boring mess that this book is. And I recommend that others don't get it at all. Total waste of time and money.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By edward on April 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
At the centre of this book is an extraordinary tale of how a bunch of journalists got chucked into jail at the peak of the war. As a story that should have sufficed. It is genuinely fascinating in a way that makes you thing, what would I have done
in that situation? Why the author felt the need to stretch that out into a generalisation of the saddam regime, I don't get. Everyone he encounters has a story that dwarfs his entirely and thus robs his own voice of meaning. The sense you get is that he is only interest in iraqis for the way in which they can augment his own theorum and experiences. Their post war suffering goes entirely undocumented. this book is neither one thing nor another, not an account of the war or an analysis of the aftermath. It reads like an opportunity that could have been grasped but wasn't and therefore can tell us nothing enduring of the plight of the iraqi people. At worst, an ego trip; at best, a very limited view on one journalist's very limited world.
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