"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Monday, December 3, 2007

Book Review: The Distance Between Us by Masha Hamilton

The November Great Readers of M met last Wednesday to discuss The Distance Between Us by Masha Hamilton. I chose this book and really had no clue why besides I thought it sounded intriguing.

Catherine Blair, who goes by Caddie, is a dedicated journalist assigned to the war-torn middle east. She takes her job very seriously, maintaining a professionals detachment and objectiveness. She allows herself to get close to one colleague, Marcus. Only physically close, however, as they differ at times on the directions the stories they are working on should take.

Their schedule is grueling, the conditions insufferable and what they witness daily is more than the average person can stand. Almost all correspondents can only take six months on duty before needing to "recoup" on home soil. But Caddie feels an honest affinity for the lands and their people and finds the idea that she is merely the eyes and ears for the people back home a little disturbing.

The dedication page says it all: "For Kevin Carter and journalists everywhere who put their bodies and their souls on the line to cover war."

This book is about the horrors that the people who live in war zones must endure at the hands of leaders consumed with hate and lustful for power. But it's also about one woman's journey of self-discovery, traversing her inner heart and mind which are as desolate as the lands she covers. Haunted by memories and aided by photographic diaries, she is able to put down her other colleague's jeers about her "constant need for bloodletting" and make her stand.

This type of subject is hard to write about and is usually tackled by men via spy or 'hard-hitting journalism' genres. So it is unusual to see women writers venturing into this territory. Written in a 'you-are-there' style, Hamilton presents this story in a surrealistic form - giving you the perspective that you are witnessing the events as they happen, but are seeing everything from a distance...the distance between you.

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