In Extremis

I’m not normally a reader of biographies. However, this beautiful hardback came highly recommended by a friend. This is the bio of Marie Colvin, an American war correspondent. Colvin grew up in the States and worked in papers in both the US & UK. But most of her reporting was done from the ground, in the middle-east and Asia.

This is a most remarkable book. It’s the sort of life account that reads like fiction, it is so full of fantastical events in Colvin’s life and the array of people she met & interviewed. The author is Lindsay Hislum, Colvin’s friend & colleague and someone who clearly knew her well. I found myself questioning Colvin’s decision making multiple times, what sort of person willingly volunteers themselves to the most dangerous areas of the world? And is the first in line to get on a plane to get on ground – from Palestine to Sri Lanka, Lebanon to Syria.

What struck me while reading the first few chapters about Marie’s childhood, is how ‘regular’ it was. And in some ways, it reminded me of another rebel biography, that of Ed Snowden. Individuals like them are shaped by their regular childhood in surprisingly irregular ways. And in so, they find some deep down need for truth despite the danger to their lives. It is fearless lives led like these that make for the most interesting retellings!

Parts of this book are slower than others, obviously. But such pages are few and far between. For the most part, this is an incredible read and certainly a biography worth reading. What a fascinating woman Marie Colvin was!

Tesserae … a review

I have reviewed a couple of books by Matt Freese previously. You can read my reviews here and here. The thing that has struck me every time is that although his books tend to be a collection of narratives rather than a single discourse, the topics are very different. In this latest work, Freese recalls the memories of two summers in the late 60s, when he spent time at Woodstock. I love the name of the book too, it means the pieces of stone whch make up a mosaic – it seemed to me the perfect name for a book of this kind.

The collection is part-memoir part-adventure-novel. By using his experiences on those two summers in particular, and interspersing the narrative with the past of the past and the future of the past, Freese has created a marvellous book. The thing that will stay with me, is how very intimate the book is. It is a deep-dive into the author’s innermost fears, dreams, insecurities. He talks of his first love, his wife, a failed marriage, and his intense but brief relationship with his daughter. He talks of these events as if talking to a friend, and it took a lot of stepping back on my part to not feel upset and embroiled in it all.

The only slight downside, for me, was that there are a few American references which were lost on me. I have never been to America, nor have I had close friends, so understandably, that is a want from my end. But those who have lived through the American 60s will definitely find events to relate to and empathise with. I really enjoyed reading it and will recommend it for sure.

It is available to buy from Wheatmark or Amazon.