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The Sewing Circles of Herat: A Personal Voyage Through Afghanistan Paperback – February 3, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (February 3, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060505273
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060505271
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,009,303 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Expelled from Afghanistan by the Taliban for her reporting, award-winning British journalist Lamb returned after the September 11 attacks to observe the land and its people firsthand. Through interviews with locals, Lamb paints a vivid picture of Taliban rule and offers a broader sense of life devastated by two decades of war. Her well-written and moving account also reveals the heroism of the Afghans, who not only survived but also resisted their Soviet occupiers; clandestine literary circles and art preservation techniques, for example, helped Afghans salvage their education and history from total destruction. Yet this is more than a chronicle of everyday Afghan life. Lamb's probing interviews with Afghan warlords, former members of the Taliban and other influential personalities ignored by the Western media fill a gaping hole in research on the ideologies and perspectives of these actors. Her encounters with Pakistani Taliban patrons Sami-ul-Haq and Hamid Gul shed light on Pakistan's support for the Taliban. Lamb could have strengthened her account by utilizing her impressive research to further explain Afghanistan's poorly understood local rulers. Moreover, her occasional use of sensationalist language to describe Afghan suffering belittles the gravity of the situation, and her attempts to intersperse the country's complicated history with the present situation may also confuse unfamiliar readers. Nevertheless, her work leaves one with a powerful sense of what the Afghan people have endured and sheds light on the local leaders who have shaped Afghanistan's recent history. Illus.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

As a journalist covering Afghanistan during the end of the war with the Soviet Union, Lamb has a unique perspective. Observing that country after the fall of the Taliban, Lamb looks back on her days reporting on the war and is deeply unsettled to learn that the rebellious "mullahs on motorbikes" who took her to the warfront became the cruel and unbending Taliban soldiers who repressed the people of Afghanistan by perverting the ideals of Islam. "Nowhere does it say men must have beards or women can not be educated," one Afghani friend of Lamb laments, "in fact on the contrary the Koran says people must seek education." Lamb speaks to the head of the most prestigious Taliban school, a princess in exile, and women who risked everything to hold classes in their houses. She also receives letters from Marri, a young woman who barely dares to hope that the Americans will liberate the Afghan people. The scope of Lamb's book sets it apart from similar works; readers will find it both comprehensive and absorbing. Kristine Huntley
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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The result is a sort of a stew of everything you might expect to read in such a book.
David W. Nicholas
Lamb's observations into the people and conflicts of Afghanistan are insightful and very interesting.
S. Calhoun
Then there books like The Places in Between and Christina Lamb's book The Sewing Circles of Herat.
Knud A. Hermansen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By crazyforgems on October 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Christina Lamb's book "The Sewing Circles of Herat" personalizes Afghanistan. In her book, you learn and eventually care about many of the colorful figures of this country. She introduces you to a former Taliban member who details the way he tortured individuals; a rising politician who is descended from Afghan nobility; the widow of the last individual executed by the Taliban who had her first child at the age of 14.

Lamb also takes care in noting the efforts of so many individuals in preserving the country's literary, social and political traditions in secret during the rule of the Taliban. The book's title refers to a group of female writers who kept meeting during the Taliban's time under the pretense of attending meetings of their "sewing circles."

Lamb's book does have some flaws. "The Sewing Circles of Herat" is beautifully reported with many rich details which enliven her stories. However beautiful reporting does not necessarily translate to well written or a strong narrative. In many respects, the book is a series of disparate accounts of Lamb's encounters with various citizens of Afghanistan soon after September 11th. She does not weave overriding themes or carry one strong narrative viewpoint throughout the book.

Still I highly recommend this book for individuals who wish to learn more about Afghanistan or simply want to read a well reported book on a very misunderstood country.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are many good books now offering us insight into Afghanistan and Pakistan, but even the best of them -- like Carpet Wars -- are by men and almost all the people they meet and talk about are men -- not surprisingly, given where they are. Christina Lamb has been in Afghanistan and nearby Pakistan over a period of decades. Her writing is clear, direct, and sympathetic to the people she's known there for many years, including Hamid Karzai. The people she meets -- and re-meets -- along the way become part of her story which humanizes the the local situations she describes. Top notch!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Teel on December 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Christine Lamb's book, "Sewing Circles of Herat" is an interesting and enlightening book about the problems Afghanistan has gone through for centuries. Her primary focus is on the last fifteen or so years. Ms. Lamb is a journalist who reports on Afghanistan, not as a reporter reporting a story, but as a participant in some of the events that occurred in the country. The book, while very interesting reading, was a little misleading in its title. I expected to find more written about the amazing women in Afghanistan who braved the wrath of the Taliban by holding secret study groups under the disguise of sewing circles. While there were many interesting stories laid out for the reader, the one about the sewing circles was just a small sample of what women went through during the Taliban years. However, the overall book was good and if your knowledge of Afghanistan is limited, this is the book to read. It provides true stories of everyday life in a country as unforgiving as its soldiers. Interspersed with the stories are some historical facts which help the reader to understand some of the politics behind the Afghanistan of today.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By S. Calhoun on March 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
Reading THE SEWING CIRCLES OF HERAT is like embarking on a personal tour through Afghanistan's history, culture, and geography. Christina Lamb brings this complex and misunderstood country to vivid life. Most books in this genre attempt to tell the story from the outside-looking-in perspective but Lamb's extensive knowledge of Afghani history, people, and conflict results in a virtual first-hand account of this troubled nation.
Lamb first became acquainted with Afghanistan while covering the war between the mujaheddin and the Soviets for two years as a foreign correspondent. During this time she made many friendships and allies with the mullahs and possessed a deep appreciation and sympathy for Afghanistan that continued even after she returned home to London. Twelve years later Lamb returned to Afghanistan once again as a foreign correspondent after the media obsession with September 11th and the hunt for Osama bin Laden. It became apparent quite early that Afghanistan has suffered dearly as a result of the rise and fall of the Taliban. As Lamb travels throughout the country she blends her extensive knowledge of Afghani history and culture with her current observations. Most interestingly she was able to interview a former Taliban torturer, tour a madrassa (religious school) that is credited for educating such figures as Mullah Omar, and speak with her long-term friend Hamid Karzai who is now the appointed leader of Afghanistan.
Lamb's observations into the people and conflicts of Afghanistan are insightful and very interesting. After reading this I now have a renewed since of this country and am more understanding of current events. I especially appreciated all the photos that were included throughout the text. With the exception of frequent run-on sentences Lamb's prose is remarkable and very clear. She has the ability to make her subject matter come alive and I was continually interested throughout.
Highly recommended.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on June 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Not knowing Christina Lamb's reputation as an award-winning, hardcore journalist, I started this book expecting it to explore the domestic arts and social conditions of women in this regional center of Afghanistan. Wrong. Couldn't be more wrong. This is a hard-hitting look at the combined political, military, and religious forces that over the last three decades have shattered this country.

Not that Afghanistan was ever a peaceable kingdom, its brief periods of relative calm punctuated over 5000 years with invasions, occupations, and bloody fraternal warfare, characterized by extremes of brutality. And Lamb's book provides plenty of historical background in this regard. However, the tragedy of modern-day Afghanistan as spelled out in detail here is sometimes traumatizing. Lamb ventures obsessively and heart stoppingly into the pitch of battle, traveling now with mujaheddin fighters during the last months of the Soviet Occupation and later, on her own, to Herat, Kandahar, and Kabul at the end of the Taliban regime. She interviews military commanders, along with Hamid Karzai, two high-ranking Taliban on the run and the former director of Pakistan's ISI, which used a massive infusion of capital from both the CIA and Osama bin Laden to arm and mastermind the mujaheddin resistance.

Meanwhile, in her interviews with both combatants and noncombatants, we see the human cost of warfare of which the Taliban for all their excesses are only partly to blame. The loss has been inconceivable, as Lamb describes it - the dead, the tortured and maimed, the devastated cities, countless uncharted mine fields, a destroyed cultural heritage, and the impact on a whole generation who have grown up with war; the list is endless. Lamb doesn't pull her punches.
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