Naked in Baghdad: The Iraq War as Seen by NPR’s Correspondent (Review)

June 30, 2012

Book cover for "Naked in Baghdad" by Anne Garrels.Title: Naked in Baghdad: The Iraq War as Seen by NPR’s Correspondent

Author: Anne Garrels (with Vint Lawrence)

Narrator: Anne Garrels

Publication Year: 2003

Pages: 264 (audio length: 7 hours 2 minutes)

Genre: Non-Fiction, Audiobook

Source: Audiobook version purchased from Audible.com

From the cover:

As National Public Radio’s senior foreign correspondent, Anne Garrels has covered conflicts in Chechnya, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. She is renowned for direct, down-to-earth, insightful reportage, and for her independent take on what she sees. One of only sixteen unembedded American journalists who stayed in Baghdad’s now-legendary Palestine Hotel throughout the American invasion of Iraq, she was at the very center of the storm. Naked in Baghdad gives us the sights, sounds, and smells of our latest war with unparalleled vividness and immediacy. Garrels’s narrative starts with several trips she made to Baghdad before the war, beginning in October 2002. At its heart is her evolving relationship with her Iraqi driver/minder, Amer, who becomes her friend and confidant, often serving as her eyes and ears among the populace and taking her where no other reporter was able to penetrate. Amer’s own strong reactions and personal dilemma provide a trenchant counterpoint to daily events. The story is also punctuated by e-mail bulletins sent by Garrels’s husband, Vint Lawrence, to their friends around the world, giving a private view of the rough-and-tumble, often dangerous life of a foreign correspondent, along with some much-needed comic relief.

While reading “on the ground” stories of life during the American invasion of Iraq isn’t exactly what most people would call a good time, I have to say that I enjoyed listening to Naked in Baghdad.

For starters, the story is simply fantastic. Not that she makes it up, I mean, but the way that she tells the story and the things that she got up to while reporting for NPR in the country. The way Garrels got herself into – and out of – all of these situations and the way with which she recounts the complete insanity is a large part of what made this book enjoyable.

In particular, I liked hearing the story in her own voice. Normally, I’m not much of a person for “read-by-the-author” audiobooks, but I think that Garrels has a distinct advantage on this one, being a radio personality. It definitely added a bit of an edge to hear the stories in the words of the person who lived them.

One thing that I didn’t enjoy so much was the interspersed “Brenda bulletins”, emails that Garrels’ husband sent out to her family and friends. It felt quite repetitive, usually coming right before or after being told something by Anne herself, and in much greater detail.

All in all, though, this was quite the fascinating read! I definitely recommend that you pick this one up if you get a chance.

Rating:

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