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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: 5.1 x 0.9 x 8 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: #707,654 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

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 Omer Belsky on September 7, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Welcome to Sudan. The ravaged country, its society torn apart by endless war, as if cursed with every possible curse - Ethnic strife, widespread corruption, religious warfare, famine - and that Modern curse, the one that makes powerful foreigners interested: oil.

Deborah Scoggins uses the story of Emma McCune, a young Englishwoman who - obsessed with Sudan, its people, and its men, came to marry a Sudanese warlord, to shed light on the forsaken land, and of the people who populate it - not merely the Sudanese themselves, but also, perhaps especially, the Westerners who come to "save" them.

Scoggins sees continuity between the present day Aid workers, Journalists and other do-gooders and the Western Imperialists of the 19th century. Their implicit model was Charles George Gordon, the Victorian soldier and adventurer who led African soldiers in a "campaign" against slavery, and whose mix - of idealism, thrill seeking, and utter ignorance of the country and the people he came to save - they share (This is also a theme of William Easterly's The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good).

Like their Imperialists forerunners, the white aid-workers become immediate elite, separated and elevated above the population by the color of their skin. Also like the Imperialists, they get powers above and beyond anything they might have had back in the West. 25 years old Emma McCune, for example, became a school coordinator, essentially an education Minister for the area under the Sudanese Rebels' control.
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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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