The Sewing Circles of Herat: My Afghan Years

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9780007157884: The Sewing Circles of Herat: My Afghan Years

Ten years ago, Christina Lamb reported on the war the Afghan people were fighting against the Soviet Union. Now, back in Afghanistan, she has written an extraordinary memoir of her love affair with the country and its people.

A gold-inscribed invitation to a wedding in Pakistan led Christina Lamb to leave suburban England for Peshawar – a town perched on the frontier of the Afghan war – at the age of just 21. Captivated by the Afghans she met, for two years she tracked the final stages of the mujaheddin victory over the Soviets as Afghan friends smuggled her in and out of their country in a variety of guises – from burqa-clad wife to Kandahari boy – travelling by foot, on donkeys, or hidden under the floor of an ambulance.

Long haunted by her experiences in Afghanistan, Lamb returned there after last year's attack on the World Trade Centre to find out what had become of the people and places that had marked her life as a young graduate.This time seeing the land through the eyes of a mother and experienced foreign correspondent, Lamb's journey brings her in touch with the people no one else is writing about: the abandoned victims of almost a quarter century of war.

Among them are the brave women writers of Herat who carried on the literary tradition of this ancient Persian city under the guise of sewing circles; those persecuted by the Taliban such as Kabul's leading kite-maker, imprisoned for making the colourful paper kites that fly from the rooftops of the city; and Khalil Ahmed Hassani, a former Taliban torturer who admits to breaking the spines of men, then making them stand on their heads.

Christina Lamb’s reputation as a skilful chronicler of human stories, her unique perspective on Afghanistan, and her deep passion for the people she writes about make this the definitive account of the extraordinarily tragic plight of a proud people.

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Review:

‘“The Sewing Circles of Herat” opens a window on to the deeply unromantic horrors of Taliban-led Afghanistan and, less troubling for the squeamish, tells the remarkable stories of those who dared to defy that particularly vile regime…Lamb writes with pace, conviction and honesty, uncovering both the terrible human cost of the Taliban experiment and the enduring strength of spirit of those who refused to join it.’ Justin Marozzi, Sunday Telegraph

‘Award-winning foreign correspondent Christina Lamb has written an inspiring and moving account of Afghanistan’s plight…Lamb shows that, despite attempts to destroy the country and its culture, its soul remains uncrushed.’ Marianne Brace, Independent on Sunday

‘A lucid, intimate, haunting book, which sings the song of Lamb’s love – and the tragic plight of a defiant and divided nation.’ Sunday Times

‘The definitive account of modern Afghanistan… This is a lucid, intimate, haunting book, passionate yet never self-indulgent, which sings the story of Lamb’s love – and the tragic plight of a defiant and divided nation.’ Rory Maclean, Sunday Times

‘Deeply penetrating, informative and always engaging… Through the dispiriting events under which Afghanistan continues to be submerged, Lamb continually finds delightful people who have latched on to the fact that Faith is an ecclesiastical word for credulity, and offer some hope for the country’s future.’ Cal McCrystal, Financial Times

‘Lamb has a curiosity that demands she listen to anyone – warlord, reluctant torturer, Pakistani intelligence officer, family of the last man hanged… And beyond the door of the “Golden Needle Ladies’ Sewing Classes” in Herat, Lamb is awed by that cultured city’s resistance… which, as [she] understands, matters more than pages of guns and rubble.’ Veronica Howell, Guardian

‘A remarkable blend of outrage, compassion and hope, Christina Lamb’s book is an alternately horrifying and uplifting insight into the Taliban regime.’ Justin Marozzi, Evening Standard

From the Publisher:

Long haunted by her experiences in Afghanistan, Lamb returned there after the attack on the World Trade Centre to find out what had become of the people and places that had marked her life as a young graduate.This time seeing the land through the eyes of a mother and experienced foreign correspondent, Lamb's journey brings her in touch with the people no one else is writing about: the abandoned victims of almost a quarter century of war.

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