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Promised Virgins: A Novel of Jihad Hardcover – February 4, 2009

3.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Fleishman, a war correspondent and Pulitzer Prize finalist, writes what he knows in this admirable but flawed Syriana-esque novel. Jay Morgan is a veteran journalist who has seen it all. Stationed in Kosovo—and breaking a cardinal rule by sleeping with his beautiful translator, Alijah—he is in hot pursuit of the dateman, an Osama bin Laden–like figure who has recently set up camp in the mountains. Meanwhile, Alijah, the survivor of violence, hopes to find her missing brother who she suspects has enlisted with the guerrillas. As Jay and Alijah inch closer to their goals, it becomes clear that the individuals they pursue are more entwined than they could have imagined. The specter of 9/11 hangs over Fleishman's account of war, which is often filled with rich and provocative insights. Yet despite occasional moments of revelation and beauty, the book's devastating conclusion doesn't pay off quite the way it should, largely owing to Alijah, who remains a mystery to Jay and thus comes off as a romanticized ideal. While the narrative hits the right intellectual notes, it misses the human ones. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

One of the best descriptive writers in American newspapers today." --Jon Marshall, Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University, creator of the News Gems blog for the Society of Professional Journalists

A debut novel set in Kosovo in the 1990s, from seasoned war correspondent Fleishman. Narrator Jay Morgan is a grizzled war reporter who in his career has seen enough violence--including the death of his photographer wife--to make him disillusioned and cynical. In Kosovo he becomes embroiled in the ferocity of ethnic hostilities ("Yugoslavia's unfinished chapter") between the Serbs and the Albanians. He links up with Alija, a beautiful young translator who's looking for her brother Ardian, a university student who disappeared months before. One of the first images of the novel sets the grim tone: Jay and Alija checking mass graves to see whether Ardian is among the victims. Both of them move uneasily among the brutal and brutish Serbs, especially the MUP, the Serb interior police. The MUP control the checkpoints and inflict daily violence on the towns and villages. The rebels, in contrast, occupy the mountains and use guerrilla tactics to destroy Serb soldiers and Jeeps before melting back into their hiding place. Jay has heard rumors of a mysterious, charismatic Muslim leader now living among the rebels and training them in tactics that include suicide bombing--or glorious martyrdom, depending on whose side the description is emanating from. (The "promised virgins" of the title refers to the ultimate reward of those willing to sacrifice themselves.) After much searching, and with help from those sympathetic to the rebel cause, Jay succeeds in having a brief and enigmatic interview with the shadowy figure known as Abu Musab. Jay has found out--though he keeps his knowledge from Alija--that among those Abu Musab is training in suicide tactics is Ardian. Fleishman, who is currently serving as the Cairo bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, writes in a telegraphic, staccato style, reminiscent of Hemingway and well suited to the stark realities he depicts. A harsh, impressive work. First printing of 12,500. Agent: Sorche Fairbank/Fairbank Literary Representation --Kirkus Reviews
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 253 pages
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing; 1 edition (February 4, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1559708972
  • ISBN-13: 978-1559708975
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,829,755 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The only things wrong with this book is the silly cover of a woman hugging herself, and an "iffy" title, but once you're past those you've entered a world in which fiction provides a greater truth. There are a lot of novels about Jihad floating around out there; most of them are just war stories with good guys, bad guys, beautiful women, and arch-heroics taking place in one of the many "stans" of the world. Mostly they glorify some aspect of war. Mostly they lie. Two books that don't lie are John Le Carre's latest, A Most Wanted Man, and Promised Virgins.

Promised Virgins takes place in Bosnia, tracks two war correspondents, their translator, and a few colorful characters, introduces the "dateman," a fanatic who travels the world pushing hatred and Jihad, quite reminiscent of the bastard bin Laden. Friendships are key, but many bad things happen. Jeffrey Fleishman, a war correspondent himself, nails locale, milieu, and character. Promised Virgins is exciting, emotional, very well written (though sometimes a bit too Hemingway,) and well worth the time.

Hightly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Sometimes the fractals of my life lead to some interesting and unanticipated connections. One of my favorite haunts is the bar at Legal Seafood in Copley Place. If the folks at Legal relied on my consumption of alcohol to remain a profitable concern, they would have gone out of business long ago. I come for the clam chowder, the bottomless glass of Diet Coke and the world-class service from the great staff of men and women who make this bar a destination for many of us regulars. It beats Cheers for being a place where everybody truly knows your name. A few weeks ago, I took my usual place at the bar and quickly became aware that I was sitting next to two distinguished journalists: Kevin Cullen, columnist for the Boston Globe and Jeffrey Fleishman, Cairo Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times. Fleishman was in town to as a recipient of a Harvard Nieman Fellowship. He has also been a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

As Cullen and Fleishman allowed me to hitchhike on their conversation, I learned that Fleishman had just published a novel, based on his experiences covering the conflict in Kosovo. I was intrigued enough to order a copy of the book. I am glad that I did.

Promised Virgins - A Novel of Jihad, looks at the war in Kosovo - and the larger global terror campaign - through the eyes of veteran war correspondent, Jay Morgan. A Bin Laden-like figure lurks in the background of the narrative that plays itself out with suspense and artistry. Morgan's beautiful, but war-ravaged translator, Alijah, provides a link to the terrorists as she searches for her younger brother who has gone missing and may have joined the insurgents. One reviewer likened Fleishman's writing style to that of Hemingway, but I find Fleishman's literary voice to be more lyrical and less terse than Hemingway's.
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By Chiclet on June 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I found this book kind of slow and hard to follow. I did appreciate the character development and I really felt for the characters towards the end. It was one of those situations where the more I knew about them, the more I liked them. I actually found this book to have much less emotion than I would have expected. Without giving anything away, there were times where I had to re-read the more tragic scenes to make sure I got it right, since the narative was very bland. Maybe the point is that war is desensitizing?

That said, the author has a way with words. His descriptions are quite beatiful. His words are what kept me moving through the book.
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