Not Untrue & Not Unkind

By Ed O’Loughlin

The Short Take:

This is a novel, a work of fiction, but I felt like I got a realistic picture of the reckless lives of war correspondents — both on and off the job. This fascinating book had some delectable descriptions, but whenever bullets started to rain, it read with steely-eyed reporter detachment. Good thing, too. Otherwise the horror and futility of the wars in Africa would be too much to bear.

Why?

Of course I’ve never met a war correspondent. The closest I’ve come is reading old P. J. O’Rourke articles inRolling Stone. O’Loughlin actually reported from Africa and the genuineness of this work shines on every page.

There are a number of things that intrigued me about this book: The way the reporters could face horrific situations with an amazing degree of detachment, yet obviously were not truly immune. The way they cooperated, even though they were competitors. The insanity of the African wars they covered. The tragedies this war forced on everyday African families.

And then there was O’Loughlin’s use of language. Just a passing mention of “pencils of smoke rising from smokestacks” sent me into a reverie about the joys of creative use of descriptive language. O’Loughlin draws beautiful pictures. Thankfully, when it comes to actual warfare, the language is much more terse. O’Loughlin gives his readers the same emotional distance his reporters must maintain to do their jobs. That’s pretty clever in my book.

Please note that I seldom read any book having to do with war. I’m glad I made an exception here.

A Little Plot:

Owen Simmons works at the Irish newspaper he once left to be a foreign correspondent in Africa. When a disliked colleague dies, Simmons finds in his possession a picture of Simmons and his fellow reporters. The book then recreates Simmon’s African past for us, interspersed with the events happening in Simmons current life.

You’ll be glad to know the book contains love interests and brave women as well as hard-drinking, careless men. I found myself mentally casting the roles as I read along. That’s always a good sign.

For more about Ed O’Loughlin and his book (though not much more, to be honest) click here.

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