Book Review – A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah


I have read a lot about the wars and problems in Sierra Leone, but never from the perspective of a boy soldier – which is an important piece of the puzzle to get as complete a picture as possible to truly understand the horror of what ordinary Sierra Leone citizens had to go through, not only including their children but especially their children. The book is excellent – very fluid, insightful and reads as easily as a novel. The author masterfully captures the story from point of view of a child. What surprised me is how non-sensationalist and non-patronizing he is – just plain straight experiences and facts – and no attempt whatsoever is made to play with the reader’s emotions or opinions. The author is very pragmatic about the events surrounding his experiences, he does not go into detail about the events themselves and certainly does not force any opinion upon the reader. This it is ultimately a story about courage and survival under extreme adversity, and in that regard it is truly remarkable and inspirational. Whether you are already familiar with the circumstances leading to and during the Sierra Leone civil war or whether you don’t you will still enjoy this book. But I would suggest to get a separate book to get an insight about the civil war itself as that is beyond the scope of this memoir. Although this book leaves the reader with a sense of hope, the chilling fact is that although the civil war in Sierra Leone is over there are still to this very day hundreds of thousands of child soldiers worldwide in different wars – an accessible book like this gives them a voice and an audience, but sadly respite for them still seems so far away.