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BOOK EXCERPTS AND REVIEWS
GHOSTS BY DAYLIGHT
"Di Giovanni combines a defiant high romanticism with a formidable writing technique to striking effect."
"Di Giovanni writes with sadness, love and generosity ... turned the harsh facts of a life full of extremity and chaos into a story of defiant elegance ..."
"Di Giovanni is a graceful writer, blessed with the kind of lucid prose that might trick readers into imagining that penning a compelling memoir would be easy. Her skilfull blending of the lovely (“My first street in Paris smelled of yeast: of baking bread, of cakes”) with the gritty (her husband’s alcoholism, the disintegration of their marriage) gives her book a very authentic kind of texture ..."
"Di Giovanni has constructed this bitter and illuminating story with admirable artistry ..."
"Emotional battles and how to survive them are the principal themes in Ms di Giovanni's beautifully written memoir ... Ghosts by Daylight is no misery memoir, but a powerful lesson. Two people can love each other deeply, have a child, but still, in the end, not make it together."
"A blisteringly raw emotional memoir of what it’s like to switch from being an international war correspondent to civilian family life in Paris. The Times’ senior foreign correspondent Di Giovanni weaves in memories of terrifying times in Iraq and the former Yugoslavia as she navigates a new marriage and baby – and is horrified to find that so-called ‘ordinary’ life can be much tougher than any war."
"A searing, profoundly moving love letter, beautifully written, Ghosts by Daylight is a powerfully raw portrait of marriage and motherhood in the aftermath of war."
"Ghosts by Daylight is a story infused with love: di Giovanni’s love of her job as a war correspondent, love of the one man who could frustrate, but also delight her, and unequivocal love of her son. The book also shows that seemingly invincible and unflappable war correspondents are human, just like the rest of us."
"In beautifully deliberative passages, Di Giovanni depicts the elaborate concoction of her marriage, the renovation of a choice apartment, and the accoutrements of a privileged Parisian life ... Her rather scrambled, touching work is about trying to habituate herself within a mad, chaotic world where even love cannot be fixed in place—inviting enormous sorrow along with the joy."
"An intimately honest, compassionate, and humble consideration of marriage, motherhood, and a love that fights to survive in the wake of its romantic beginnings, di Giovanni’s memoir is interlaced with a look at the darkest days of the Bosnian War and the self-realization that comes from facing buried memories."
"Unashamedly romantic, and combining quiet reflection with pacy narrative, di Giovanni looks at love with the same clear eye she brings to war."
"Janine Di Giovanni writes about her life as a foreign correspondent and, finally, a mother with studied elegance."
"Thrilling, dramatic, and the fine testament of a brave woman and an elegant writer."
"... 'Ghosts By Daylight' recalls in sensitively calibrated prose the costs of both war and love."
"Di Giovanni’s evocative prose triggers all the senses as she fearlessly takes you into the heart of war from a journalist’s perspective. ... This is an extraordinarily honest memoir, full of courage and pain, love and hope as Di Giovanni literally relives her traumatic past from the perspective of a compassionate survivor."
"Janine Di Giovanni’s gorgeously rendered Ghosts by Daylight is a quixotic love story as well as a raw account of a life lived in danger zones."
"A war correspondent's struggle to leave the battles behind and embark on a life of motherhood. ... A plainly told, occasionally exotic tale of love gone awry."
"... a tautly written and haunting account of her life in war zones, but especially in Bosnia, and how her war correspondent job impacted on her marriage and motherhood."
"Reading [Janine's] compelling story was sometimes eerie – as if some Balkan spell had been cast over us who, by choice, lived through those dark days in Bosnia. So much struggle and sadness in our lives, so many unhappy endings where there once seemed such promise – bright love out of the bleakness of war. And yet, of course we would be haunted: what were we thinking?"
"In her new memoir, 'Ghosts by Daylight,' famed war correspondent Janine di Giovanni recalls her life covering the world’s worst conflicts—and how the home front truly tested her."
"Splendid prose from an American writer"
"Janine di Giovanni's book is a must read. A fascinating tale of love and war ..."
"Ghosts by Daylight, the only book successfully exposing the disturbing personal conflicts inevitable for war correspondents."
"A good journalist is not just someone who dares to go where the story is, but someone who is also able to maintain his/her humility knowing s/he was one of the few to cover the story. That's why Janine is one of the best!"
A PLACE AT THE END OF THE WORLD
'War, disease ... and plumbers : Di Giovanni's clear, straightforward prose, skilfully tailored to snag idling magazine readers, often avoids analysis, either political or psychological. It's sufficient that she's brave enough (like many of the people she meets) to bear witness in places and situations the rest of us - unless we're very unlucky - would much rather have nothing to do with, unless by proxy.'
'The Place at the End of the World is a collection of some 20 long articles, most of them originally written for the Times or Vanity Fair. War news has a short shelf-life, and the pieces could have seemed dated, but paradoxically it is the familiarity of the material that gives the collection its edge. Depressingly little has changed in the past decade. Wars that were meant to end in weeks have dragged on for years. Afghanistan, Somalia, Chechnya, Israel and Iraq are all in varying states of civil war. Read together, these pieces provide a terrifying picture of the anarchical and appallingly brutal nature of conflict, with its druggy boy soldiers, its cheap and proliferating weapons, its seemingly random viciousness.'
'Being a war correspondent is a privilege and a burden. The privilege comes from having firsthand access to the events that shape history. But it can also be a painful responsibility to trespass through the most intimately horrific moments of people's lives. The trick is to tell their stories in full, compassionate detail while illuminating their relevance to the bigger picture. Janine di Giovanni strikes just that balance in "The Place at the End of the World". ... She recounts compelling tales of her experiences, from the flirty girls in Kabul who want to learn to dance after the fall of the Taliban to 18-year-old Sia, a former child soldier in Sierra Leone who is so adept at cutting off people's limbs that she is charged with training captured 5- and 6-year olds. Di Giovanni shares her heartache over the murder of a close colleague in Sierra Leone, as well as her disbelief when she learns that a close Iraqi friend was an agent under Saddam Hussein. Journalists, di Giovanni poignantly reminds us, are only human, after all.'
'Sometimes, books by journalists recounting their tales of derring-do can be quite boring. Indeed, the recent books of several household names spring to mind, as does their well-deserved remaindered fate. This book does not fall into this category. Not only does it deserve attention but, more importantly, I think it will stand the test of time. ... This book is a collection of much of her best work but what makes it interesting is that it is not just that. If it were a straightforward collection of frontline tales, as graphic and heartrending as they are, I don't know if that would have been enough. What makes this book is the interlacing of war stories with her story.'
'Sometimes I cried as I read and sometimes I hooted with laughter as Janine told how she had talked her way out of a tight spot with marauding troops. Vivid, raw and impassioned - and war through her is terrifyingly real.'
'Having followed janine's writings for many years since she came to prominence as the pre-eminent war reporter in the former Yugoslavia revealing there terrible slaughter with courage, righteous indignation and black humour to remain sane amidst such carnage I am not at all surprised this is such a good book. ... It is her courage and humanity that stand out. Always ready to go where the action is but never afraid to admit fear. Always ready to put down her note book and help others. ... All in all a fabulous book.'
'A magnificent, moody and haunting story told with the aplomb and verve we have come to expect from Janine. Courage is the word that comes to my mind. Beauty, too, as my fellow reader has noted. ... For a young woman such as her to place herself in harm's way in areas where women are so often maltreated and used as objects is no mean feat. ... it is a remarkable book ...'
'This book is another eloquent triumph from the pen of the world's bravest and most beautiful war reporter. ... The pieces collected here begin with Ms Giovanni's first expedition on holiday to scuba dive in the Red Sea off Egypt in 1998 that wetted her appetite for foreign adventures and end with Iraq in 2005. They are vivid, raw, almost pornographic and impassioned - and they make war more awful. To read Ms Giovann is to gaze through the eyes of a rare beauty into what makes the world less nice than it could be. Some say she writes cliches. Not I. For me she is all that is good and kind. All in all a fantastic book.'
'A stunning portrait of contemporary war ... It is a terrifying account.'
'One of our generation's finest foreign correspondents ... excellent.'
'Di Giovanni has written so much more than reports of battles waged, won or lost. It's an account of life lived in extremis ... Read this book and you may begin to understand what war looks like and feels like, or even smells like.'
'If you read no other book about the Balkan wars, read this one.'
'Di Giovanni is superb - an extraordinarily brave war correspondent and a wonderful writer as well. What a combination!.'
'Unforgettable ... vivid, compassionate ... Few writers can match her evocations of individual suffering in wartime.'
'Powerful and moving ... di Giovanni's accounts of her time on the front lines are vivid and dramatic. She is a gifted and humane reporter, with a novelist's eye for detail ... a book of worth and purpose.'
'Janine di Giovanni has described war in a way that almost makes me think it never needs to be described again. This is it, modern war: If you don't want to know what it's really like, don't pick up this book. I can honestly say that I finished this book a wiser, more compassionate person than when I started.'
'Di Giovanni is a war reporter whose courage is matched only by her compassion for her subjects.'
'Janine di Giovanni took ten years out of her life to report on all those terrible wars in the former Yugoslavia. She tells us what it was really like on the frontline - the squalor, the terror, the barbarity, and the randomness of death. But there was also comradeship, hope, glory and, occasionally, the triumph of the human spirit.'
'Modern war has become ever more Satanic, and never more so than in the Balkans in the 1990s. Janine di Giovanni is our Virgil, guiding us through the circles of that man-made hell: Sarajevo, Kosovo, Pristina. Her depictions of the fighting recall the best correspondence to come out of the Spanish Civil War. Her portraits of the victims are moving, but she really shines in bringing to chilling life the perpetrators of "ethnic cleansing" - today's euphemism for genocide.'
'A searing chronicle of a decade's worth of ethnocide in the former Yugoslavia ... The tales she tells would do Martha Gellhorn proud, though they do not make for easy reading ... Wholly memorable, entirely upsettling: one of the best pieces of reportage to come from the Balkan abattoir.'
'An unflinching and often harrowing volume ... Di Giovanni survived her experiences to tell the tale, and she does so admirably. The lessons learned are ours to take away.'
'Gutsy ... harrowing and humane.'
'Always compassionate, never sentimental, di Giovanni gives voice to the victims, perpetrators and architects of the conflict.'
'Di Giovanni provides lucid historical background, deft sketches of the players, and unflinching accounts of the effects of war on its victims ... she's better, and braver, than most.'
'A devastating memoir of the Balkans ... a harrowing firsthand account of a region's spiral into madness ... Di Giovanni has written a tragic book that vividly memorialises the millions who suffered in the name of religion, nationality and ego.'
'Janine di Giovanni's fine book on the Yugoslav wars brings the personalities, tragedies and abominations of the conflict painfully to life ... Di Giovanni's is possibly the best journalist's book to come out of former Yugoslavia ... her truth is more powerful than his fiction ... she manages to convey the fear, boredom, and slivovica-soaked horror of the Yugoslav wars as few have done.'
'Madness Visible is full of gripping reportage about the horrors of life during wartime ... Di Giovanni stands out in the pack of British war correspondents ... Not only does di Giovanni elicit shocking testimony from survivors, but her writing about their plights is especially moving.'
'The veteran reporter has a keen eye for detail and dialogue ... di Giovanni comes into her own when recounting the earlier war in Bosnia.'
'Powerful and disturbing ... a description of today's uneasy peace in the former Yugoslavia that should worry us all ... This book is fascinating on the effect of war on reporters. Are they hardened by what they see? Di Giovanni does not spare us the blood and guts ... here is a reporter whose sense of humanity has been deepened by her experience.'
'In this important book Janine di Giovanni picks her way confidently across the no man's land of the female war correspondent ... there are few outsiders who better understand what has happened in the Balkans in our time ... Madness Visible is the story of all wars.'
'It is a powerful, passionate account, and well worth waiting for ... We feel her sense of betrayal and disenchantment ... the strength of this memoir lies in its understanding that there was no monopoly of suffering in these wars, and no monopoly of evil ... She returned time and time again to seek answers to some permanently troubling questions.'
'It is compelling reportage at its best; grisly and depressing at times, of course, but also revealing.'
'Di Giovanni offers a heartrending portrait of survivors salvaging their losses under the spectre of continuing civil unrest.'
'She takes a sharp instrument and probes into the most tender places of those individuals caught up in and trapped by a tragedy ... it is gripping.'
'A standout among the many accounts of war in former Yugoslavia.'
'An impressive overview of the disintegration of Yugoslavia.'
'Powerful ... Moving ... Full of gripping reportage about the horrors of life during wartime.'
'This in one of the best books written about war.'
'Illuminating ... Moving ... [Her] stream-of-consciousness approach ... imbues the book with its quiet but undeniable emotional power ... It hurts like hell to read these accounts of the agony, fear, despair, cruelty and madness suffered by victims on all sides of the Balkan conflicts ... [Despite the] gloom that pervades each page, these accounts remain compelling because of Di Giovanni's resolve to grasp each individual's frail sense of hope and shattered human dignity.'
'Di Giovanni has covered every violent conflict since the Bosnian conflict in 1992 ... her book is set in Yugoslavia, but it is not just about Yugoslavia. It's a book very much about how people truly experience war. She has captured the essence of war, its horror and its brutality.'
'A life of bullet-dodging, staring into mass graves and hanging around with jittery, pimply soldiers ... di Giovanni's latest book centres on her experience in the Balkans in the nineties ... what it lacks in sweet romance, it makes up in passion ... she's spent her career watching other people's stories unfold.'
'Madness Visible encapsulates the integral aspects of a war correspondent's life - bravery and determination, discomfort and sheer bloody mindedness, terror and uncertainty ... Madness Visible is a salutary and essential read. Salutary because it makes you realise that the civilising effect of society is as thin as gossamer and can be lost so easily. Di Giovanni is painfully eloquent.'