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Emma's War Paperback – February 10, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375703771
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375703775
  • ASIN: 0375703772
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #682,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From The New Yorker

In 1991, in the middle of a refugee crisis in southern Sudan, a twenty-seven-year-old British aid worker named Emma McCune scandalized the relief community by marrying a local guerrilla leader; the author describes Emma's brief career as a "First Lady-in-Waiting" as "the kind of surreal sideshow that often accompanies disasters." Formerly a champion of children's rights, Emma couldn't stop her husband from holding hundreds of adolescent boys in a squalid camp. Although she embraced the hardships of African life (bouts of malaria, water teeming with bilharzia), she was well-fed by local standards, eating fish that her husband's soldiers had stolen from a weaker, starving tribe. Meanwhile, Emma's fellow-expatriates grew less enchanted with her the more "African" she became—sick and constantly in need. Scroggins, a veteran reporter on Sudan, uses Emma's story to examine the failure of Western idealism in Africa. Emma turned out to be an incidental character: she died in 1993, in a traffic accident in Nairobi; the fighting continues.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

Review

“Scroggins brings Sudan’s agony to vivid life; at the same time, she gives us a lyrical, suspenseful, psychologically acute study in idealism and self-delusion.” —George Packer, The New York Times Book Review

"Breathtaking and beautifully written. . . . Deborah Scroggins weaves the greater issues of Sudan around [Emma] McCune’s idealism.” –USA Today

“Brilliantly penetrating. . . . In [Emma McCune] Scroggins has found a feckless, captivating subject, as insufferable as the white man's insatiable need for redemption in Africa…. Scroggins undoes every illusion about aid, hunger and rebellion.” –Washington Post

“A wonderful, challenging book. . . . One of the best that I have ever read on the difficult relationship between the developed world and the Third World.” —William Shawcross, Sunday Times (London)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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See all 31 customer reviews
Emma's War is a story of blind love in a tragic place.
Dana Atkinson
I'd call it a must-read for anyone interested in the region, and anyone struggling to understand the conflicts of interest between humanitarian aid and armed conflict.
B. Bauer
It gives a lot of very helpful historical background as well as captivating stories.
Jeremy Ellsworth

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By B. Bauer on December 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
I'm an NGO worker in a post-conflict society, and was intrigued at reading this account of one woman's experience in the Sudanese aid community, and her subsequent marriage to a warlord. My fears of this being a book too bogged by history/biography were quickly tossed aside...Emma's War is so engaging because it is actually three stories in one: the story of an English woman who married a Sudanese rebel, the contentious history of southern Sudan, and a very delightful first-person narrative about the author herself and her experiences with the first two.

What I like so much about this book is that it never takes sides; Scroggins is somewhat sympathetic towards Emma, but never apologetic over her (sometimes) inhumane actions. This book also really illuminates the situation in Darfur now, and how the conflict of the last 20 years has fueled the current crisis there. I'd call it a must-read for anyone interested in the region, and anyone struggling to understand the conflicts of interest between humanitarian aid and armed conflict.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Woodley on August 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
With yet another crisis in the Sudan (did it ever go away?) this book is a powerful source of information on the machievelian politics of the region, but also of the Aid, the aid workers and one in particular, Emma McCune.

In the early 1990's Emma was an aid worker and idealist, working in the Sudan on programmes to provide young people with education (and assisting them in avoiding being drafted into the armies of the fighting factions of the region. Deborah Scroggins who met her once, unravels her life, and ties it in with the actions of the those around her - the warlords, the aid organisations, and the man she married, Northern Nile Warlord Riek.

This is a fascinating and well written book, almost Shakesperian in its tragedy. From tragic childhood to idealist aid worker to blindly in love, to prime manipulator and finally tragic heroine - It seemed her life and made a complete circle.

Scroggins clearly knows the area, its politics and history and is able to draw in immense amounts of background to situations which might otherwise be inexplicable - but she is an easy writer to read, it is eloquently put. I found myself unable to put this down until I was finished, and is easily one of the best reads of the year for me.

I found myself by turns exasperated and annoyed with Emma - she seemed frivolous with everyone but herself and yet, she obviously achieved such a lot before she became enamoured with Reik. Even perhaps afterwards.

I think reading this book will do more than explain the life of one woman, it will provide a background to one of those little understood regions - we are expected to give aid to the suffering masses without understanding why - and whether you actually give aid after you read this book will be interesting!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By V. M. Sheffield on February 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Emma's War is the result of a tremendous effort of research into the history of Sudan and an "on the ground" experience of Sudan today. Having spent five years on and off in Sudan in the late 1980s, I was able to relate to much that was written, but also learned a great deal. Especially the way the author brought the history of tribal relationships, the long conflicts between North and South, Muslims vs Christians and Animists, the economy of oil, the state of women in Sudan, and the role of Sudan in Africa as well as the Middle East. Sudan has wonderful people and a large heart, it leaves a large mark on one's soul. All of this is more the better read because it is integrated into a violent, reckless, true story of a young woman seeking adventure and to save the world who fell in love with a rebel, crossing the line and leading herself and everyone around her into extremely difficult circumstances. If you know Africa and especially Sudan, get the book, it's worth the read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By R. Rogers on November 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
Scroggins' account of the Sudanese war is not for pleasure reading. Scroggins presents the horrors of the Sudanese civil war in their naked and atrocious form, without the embellishment or emotional pandering some writers may use. The author is incredibly insightful and offers a unique perspective on humanitarian aid efforts arround the world. She attempts to move humanitarians outside their comfort zones and uncovers the true effects of their help. Incredibly cynical but worth the read for anyone who looks for the causes behind the atrocities in Sudan.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Smallchief on December 17, 2004
Format: Paperback
If a proposed movie of "Emma's War" starring Nicole Kidman is made, Emma McCune may well become the most famous aid worker of all time. That's a shame because, as this book makes clear, her accomplishments were modest. Emma had a flair for drama and publicity and a pair of long legs instead of a brain. One suspects that she would have tired of the hardships of life in the Sudanese bush and gone back to England to become a fashion designer or some such thing.

The humanitarian aid workers are the modern day missionaries of Western civilization. All in all, they do more good than harm, although Emma may be the exception. Deborah Scroggins has written an excellent book about the brutal two decade long civil war in Sudan and the foreign aid workers who keep the innocent victims of the war alive. The politics are here in easily digestible chunks and so is a mini-history of Sudan since the time of the Victorian hero "Chinese" Gordon. The author includes some of her own experiences of witnessing starvation in Sudan.

One insight of this book is that Western governments want not so much to do anything about African catastrophes as to be seen to do something. Their indifference to African suffering is more than matched by African leaders. Two million people are estimated to have died in the civil wars in Sudan during the last 20 years, the vast majority of them noncombatants. A soldier with a rifle seems the least likely person to die in African conflicts.

Smallchief
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