It was the essence of the conflict that it was dispersed and chaotic, and people caught up in it were isolated and ignorant of the whole. Once the fighting started, Liberia was a country without post or telephones, without newspapers, radio or television. Individuals knew only what was happening to them where they were trapped, but had no idea wha! t was going on five miles up the road. So Liberians are still trying to piece together the patchwork, fill in the gaps, and understand what happened.
Mark Huband, who was then a young British journalist working in the region, had a grandstand view of some of the most dramatic events -- after being kidnapped in an ambush on a train, he was the first outsider to visit rebel territory and meet Charles Taylor -- so can fill a lot of gaps. He has also spent the years since nagging at some of the central mysteries of the war, such as those surrounding the death of the former President Samuel Doe. Was it pre-planned, and if so who by? Was Doe betrayed, and who was the traitor? I was there when the President was taken away to his death, but I still don't know the answers to those questions. This book helps bring us a little closer.
I can't pretend to review this book from the point of view of readers who don't know Liberia. They may find it an absorbing and painfully vivi! d account of what happens to quite ordinary people when all! civilisation falls apart, and their country descends into anarchy around them. Or they may simply be confused. If so their confusion will be greatly increased by the false economy of the publishers who have not included any half-way decent map. So here's a good idea; why doesn't Amazon get some good maps and street plans of Monrovia, and sell them as a boxed set? It would make this book accessible to a far wider audience.
Comment to the publishers: thank you for taking the risk on a book with such limited appeal. If there's a second printing, take Ms. Blunt's advise and add detailed maps of West Africa, Liberia and Monrovia, along with lots more photos.