Top critical review
Just not very good at all.
Reviewed in the United States on June 7, 2007
The writing wasn't terrible, but it certainly wasn't good either. Much of the book read as if it was filler and stories he heard from someone else. The author's account of his time in Beirut was not informative and rather bland. I have read other accounts that really go in depth into either the political, military or personal experiences of those on the ground, but this book did not add anything to what's been written. His analysis of the Beirut conflicts left much to be desired.
I remember a part of the book where Friedman writes about his time in the Commodore Hotel and how this hotel was the place to be for any journalist in Beirut, and then reading Robert Fisk's Pity the Nation where he talks about all the hack journalists hiding out in the Commodore writing their stories from second hand accounts instead of going out and reporting the story with their own accounts. I don't know if Fisk was right, but I thought his book was much better than Friedman's.
I did find his writing on Israel to be informative (still bland though). His analysis of the psychology of the Israeli people I found to be highly insightful, and it gave me a perspective which I had never seen before. The only way to understand the Israeli people is to try and understand how the Holocaust and being surrounded by hostile people has affected their national psyche. The Israeli perspective was the best thing I took away from this book, but not even this was able to redeem the work for me.
One of the reasons I like reading reporter's books is that they are usually well written, entertaining and written with a passion or flare that the academics usually lack. This book had none of that. I felt bored and found myself having to concentrate pretty hard to stay in touch with what I was reading. I would have been fine with the shoddy writing had the analysis or the history been better but it just wasn't. There are just many books out there that treat the subject with much more competency.
If you're looking for a good book to learn more about this topic, keep looking.