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Perfect Hostage: A Life of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's Prisoner of Conscience Hardcover – March 18, 2008

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Perfect Hostage: A Life of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's Prisoner of Conscience + Freedom from Fear: And Other Writings + The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing; First Edition edition (March 18, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1602392668
  • ISBN-13: 978-1602392663
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 6.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,932,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi seems both the least likely and the most natural person to become the world's best-known prisoner of conscience, and Wintle's thoroughly engrossing book magnificently illustrates both sides of this elusive yet very public figure. Her education at Oxford and self-effacing demeanor did not prime her for the life of a dissident. Behind her reserve and English veneer, however, was a resolutely stubborn streak and a family life steeped in politics. Wintle's research has been prodigious; he brings encyclopedic knowledge of just about anything that can be linked to Suu Kyi. In rendering his subject, he weaves in Burmese history and folklore, Buddhism, Indian politics and portraits of Suu Kyi's intimates and enemies; that he delivers all this in an absorbing fashion is a marvel. Entertaining and instructive, charming and persuasive, Wintle mingles sober history and gossipy chat. Obscure political in-fighting is made comprehensible; unfamiliar colonial history is made accessible. Still, Wintle (Romancing Vietnam; Furious Interiors) can skewer in a sentence (About Sanjay [Gandhi] there was something palpably uncouth, while the vainglorious Rajiv [Gandhi] was lacking in intelligence). Suu Kyi's developing political activism, her house arrests, her honors are delineated in draftsman's detail that Wintle manages to keep vibrant. He is a biographer smitten with his subject, who cares enough to note the smallest detail, such as that Suu Kyi prefers Simenon's Maigret to Christie's Poirot. In making the reader care about the smallest things, Wintle makes the reader really care about the big thing—that the world's best-known prisoner of conscience is not free. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Burma’s nightmare of tyranny and genocidal violence grinds on, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi remains under house arrest. In the first full-throttle biography to chronicle Suu Kyi’s exemplary life in the context of totalitarian Burma’s bloody history, British writer Wintle delineates the legacy of her martyred father, General Aung San, who launched Burma’s first democratic movement and was promptly assassinated, and of Suu Kyi’s accomplished mother, who served as ambassador to India. His portrait of Suu Kyi reveals just how much this cosmopolitan book lover stood to lose when, after attending Oxford, marrying British Tibetologist Michael Aris, and having two sons, she returned to Burma in 1988 and committed herself to leading the nonviolent fight for democracy. Wintle writes with a snarling wit, firm grasp of Burma’s horrors, and penetrating respect for this tenacious and composed prisoner of conscience, detailing her genius for connecting with people, the threats against her life, and her devotion to peace. Suu Kyi holds fast to her convictions in cruel isolation, while her supporters are brutalized and the world goes on about its business. At least Wintle’s powerful portrait brings the inspirational Suu Kyi back into the light. --Donna Seaman

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Customer Reviews

I haven't finished it yet, but so far it is factual and obviously well researched.
Kevin Hayden
The detail that has been payed attention to here does not go unnoticed and the reader will come away wondering how such a story could even be playing out in our time.
Nate DeMontigny
Part I: A good overview of the history of Burma that sets into context Aung San Suu Kyi's struggle.
L. Eng

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By douglas235 on June 10, 2007
An almost first rate biography of Aung San Suu Kyi. Wintle is first to the field with an adult, even academic, biography of the Burmese Nobel Laureate. His research on her time in Japan, New York and Oxford is original and goes into much greater depth than anything else I've seen. Against fairly weak competition, Wintle's is easily the best biography of The Lady and does credit to subject and author.

The shortcomings are mainly editorial and can be cleaned up in a later edition. His treatment of the regime's lobbying campaign in Washington (P385) is a mess, mangling even the spelling of names. Merrill didn't succeed Orde Wingate after his death, Joe Lentaigne did. And Myint Oo appears as both a Captain and Colonel in Wintle's recounting of the incident at Danabyu. Don't make too much of these nigglings though because minor errors aside, it is an extremely good book.

Wintle is an honest, perceptive and mostly careful biographer. Trust him on the main line of the story but be careful of the details.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Enjolras TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This biography does what few other biographies of any leader do - it puts the subject in the proper historical perspective. Starting from the beginnings of the Burmese state, Wintle provides readers with background on Burma. This is useful because it places the country's modern politics in an appropriate frame of reference. For example, Wintle does not avoid the complexities of Burma's ethnic minorities and their long history, which later allows him to show how Aung San and his daughter Aung San Suu Kyi may have been the few leaders to be able to gain the trust of the minorities.

I also appreciate Wintle's honest appraisal of Suu Kyi near the end of the book. While Wintle is obviously sympathetic to Suu Kyi (as we all should be), he does ask important questions about the success of her non-violence movement and stubbornness.

My only criticism is that the book does not have comprehensive footnotes. While the author footnotes a few interesting articles, there are many other anecdotes and interpretations that should have been footnoted so the reader can check the source and read further if he desires.

Hopefully, when (and if) Suu Kyi is released and allowed to lead in a democratic Burma, Wintle can update his volume to include more insights into this remarkable woman.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Book-o-phile on December 29, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The author rights this book out of obvious respect. Yet despite any biases, he presents plenty of new research to back it up. For anyone wanting to uncover the mysteries behind this elegant living martyr, this is a must-read book. Accounts of "The Lady's" true sacrifices, the least of which are being banned from seeing her children or even husband on his death bed are remarkable. There are moments during this read when you feel like you are actually there, sitting in the car with her, waiting for the regime-hired thugs to beat your skull in, or anticipating the next on-slaught. This book, not only prefaces the story of her life with a comprehensive historical background, but also paints the picture of an iron-willed, extremely clever and amazingly patient woman. Such a small, gentle and feminine woman on the backdrop of a brutal regime, riots and often unadulterated chaos make this a read you won't soon forget. Whether you are intrested in Souh East Asian politics, or not, one can't help but respect this woman, if not sympathetically, thanks to the author's masterful brush strokes.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Philip W. Henry on September 4, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Perfect Hostage: A Life of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma's Prisoner of Conscience

Aung San Suu Kyi, the daughter of assassinated democratic hero Aung San, may be undertaking a hunger strike, according to sources in Thailand. Suu Kyi has refused food for three weeks and has turned away visitors, according to sources quoted by "The Nation." A lawyer who visited her recently said she appears thin and under stress. The 63-year-old Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been under house arrest for 13 of the past 19 years. Merely mentioning her name aloud in the wrong society can bring imprisonment by Burma's ruling generals. Burma is one of the world's most repressive regimes, carefully regulating the media, limiting access by foreigners and repressing all dissent.
Human rights organizations routinely cite Burma for violating civil liberties, using forced and child labor, and tacitly encouraging opium production. Burma is the world's second largest producer of opium and a source of forced trafficking of women and children for sex. The ruling Junta has gone so far as changing the nation's name to Myanmar, and relocating the administrative capital from Rangoon to an inland city that affords greater secrecy.
Despite its rich natural resources... petroleum, timber, tin, rubber, zinc, natural gas and hydroelectric power... Burma remains one of Asia's poorest countries because of mismanagement and a centralized economy. It's "Burmese Way to Socialism" was an unequivocal disaster. Politically Burma is a pariah in the international community; its only close ally is China. The US refuses to recognize the "Myanmar" regime.
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