A Long Way Gone

A Long Way Gone : Memoirs of a Boy Soldier

4.14 (116,711 ratings by Goodreads)
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The first-person account of a 26-year-old who fought in the war in Sierra Leone as a 12-year-old boy. This is the story of how wars are fought now: by children, hopped-up on drugs and wielding AK-47s. In more than fifty conflicts going on worldwide, it is estimated there are some 300,000 child soldiers. Ishmael Beah used to be one of them. What is war like through the eyes of a child soldier? How does one become a killer? How does one stop? Child soldiers have been profiled by journalists, and novelists have struggled to imagine their lives. But until now, there has not been a first-person account from someone who came through this hell and survived. Ishmael Beah, now twenty-five years old, tells a riveting story: how at the age of twelve in Sierra Leone, he fled attacking rebels and wandered a land rendered unrecognizable by violence. By thirteen, he'd been picked up by the government army, and Beah, at heart a gentle boy, found he was capable of truly terrible acts. This is a rare and mesmerizing account, told with real literary force and heartbreaking honesty. Ishmael Beah came to the United States when he was seventeen, and graduated from Oberlin College in 2003. He lives in New York City.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 240 pages
  • 144.78 x 213.36 x 22.86mm | 408.23g
  • HarperCollins Publishers
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • map
  • 0007247087
  • 9780007247080
  • 336,582

Review quote

'A corrosive, eloquent and illuminating account of a child soldier's life, and it makes you look at the news with a fresh eye. What he has done is to make his situation imaginable for us, and stop us from simply turning away in horror. That is the best gift he could give the world.' Hilary Mantel 'The arming of children is one of the greatest evils of the modern world, and yet we know so little about it because the children themselves are swallowed up by the very wars they are forced to wage. Ishmael Beah has not only emerged intact from this chaos, he has become one of its most eloquent chroniclers. "A Long Way Gone" is one of the most important war stories of our generation. We ignore its message at our peril.' Sebastian Junger 'A ferocious and desolate account of how ordinary children were turned into professional killers.' The Guardian 'A remarkable book!makes you wonder how anyone comes through such horror with his humanity and sanity intact. Ishmael Beah seems to prove it can happen.' William Boyd 'Beah's autobiography is almost unique, as far as I can determine -- perhaps the first time that a child soldier has been able to give literary voice to one of the most distressing phenomena of the late 20th century: the rise of the pubescent (or even prepubescent) warrior-killer!A remarkable book!"A Long Way Gone" makes you wonder how anyone comes through such unrelenting ghastliness and horror with his humanity and sanity intact. Unusually, the smiling, open face of the author on the book jacket provides welcome and timely reassurance. Ishmael Beah seems to prove it can happen.' William Boyd 'Beautifully expressed.' Rob Liddle, Sunday Times 'Books of the Year' 'Beah's exceptional story ought to make most memoirists embarrassed.' Kate Guest, Independent 'Books of the Year' 'A gifted writer, he has transformed a brutalised childhood into an exploration of what it means to be human.' Daily Mail 'This is a journey into the Heart of Darkness -- and back!it reads like a description of a nightmare.' The Financial Times 'Beah succeeds admirably in representing the simple emotions of his younger self, notably the fears that began to multiply as his friends started to die of hunger!His memoir of a life he has now escaped is written with an unforced mastery of narrative and imagery. In time, this short but powerful book may well takes its place alongside the "Diary of Anne Frank" as a classic evocation of adolescence and war.' Literary Review 'A vitally important story about life and loss of innocence in the Third World.' In Dublin 'The simplicity with which Ishmael tells his story carries conviction. If this is not a literary masterpiece, it is indeed an important book. The author bears witness on behalf of hundreds of thousands of child soldiers, almost none of whose stories attain such a tolerable ending as his own.' Max Hastings, The Sunday Times 'An astonishing confession.' The Observer 'Beah's memoir is unforgettable testimony that Africa's children have eyes to see and voices to tell what has happened. No outsider could have written this book, and it's hard to imagine that many insiders could do so with such acute vision, stark language, and tenderness. It is a heart-rending achievement.' Elle Magazine 'Everyone in the world should read this book.' Washington Post 'We are glued to every page!read his memoir and you will be haunted.' Newsweek 'A breathtaking and un-self-pitying account of how a gentle spirit survives a childhood from which all innocence has suddenly been sucked out. It's a truly riveting memoir.' Time Magazineshow more

About Ishmael Beah

Ishmael Beah came to the United States when he was seventeen and graduated from Oberlin College in 2004. He is a member of the Human Rights Watch Children's Rights Division Advisory Committee and has spoken before the United Nations on several occasions. He lives in New York City.show more

Review Text

The survivor of a dirty war in starkest Africa recounts his transition from 12-year-old orphan to killing machine.To emerge from Sierra Leone's malignant civil conflict and eventually graduate from college in the U.S. marks Beah as very unusual, if not unique. His memoir seeks to illuminate the process that created, and continues to create, one of the most pitiable yet universally feared products of modern warfare: the boy soldier. It illustrates how, in African nations under the stress of open civil war, youthful males cluster in packs for self-protection, fleeing the military forces of all sides, distrusted and persecuted by strangers they encounter, until they are killed or commandeered as recruits. Nearly half the text deals with Beah's life as a fugitive after marauding rebel troops ravaged his home village. He fled with several other boys, but they were separated during another attack and he was forced to spend several weeks alone in the bush; the loneliness there instilled a craving for human companionship of any type. The regular military finally snared Beah and some new companions, telling them they must train as soldiers or die. The rebels, they were assured, were responsible for killing their families and destroying their homes; as soldiers, they would exact manly revenge and serve the nation. Cocaine, marijuana and painkillers became the boys' mind-numbing daily diet. They were indoctrinated by practicing mayhem on tethered prisoners and became willing experts at lying in ambush with their aging AK-47 rifles. For them, killing human beings had replaced ordinary child's play.Beah's halting narrative has confusing time shifts, but it's hideously effective in conveying the essential horror of his experiences. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

Rating details

116,711 ratings
4.14 out of 5 stars
5 40% (47,227)
4 39% (45,216)
3 17% (19,327)
2 3% (3,651)
1 1% (1,290)
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