Early in his reporting career, Woolf had considered serving as a foreign correspondent, so when the chance came to visit the BBC’s correspondent in Afghanistan and see what the job actually entailed, he took it, trusting that his experience in the army and in stressful situations would prepare him for what he faced. In his journey into Kabul, taking part in a caravan traveling to the rebel-held north of the country, and leaving the country after his visa expired, he was shot at, under artillery attack and nearly stranded on the wrong side of a pass when winter made it impassable. In between all of that, he also managed to take the photos which ably illustrate the text, and interview a Russian prisoner who converted to Islam and joined the Afghan forces.
Woolf is both gripping as he relates these tense stories and humble in his reflection on the heroism of the Afghans and various international aid workers and journalists he met. He describes many more unforgettable incidents than you might expect given the brief length of his time in the country. Readers looking for an exciting memoir about travel through Afghanistan or a look at how the trauma of continued danger can weigh on someone will find this a satisfying read.
Takeaway: Fans of travelogues or war stories, particularly of Afghanistan, will find this memoir compelling.
Great for fans of: Deborah Copaken's Shutterbabe: Adventures in Love and War, Carmen Gentile's Blindsided by the Taliban.
Design and typography: B
Marketing copy: A-