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The Girl in Green (2016)

– tekijä: Derek B. Miller

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
1267168,258 (4.14)10
"From the author of Norwegian by Night, a novel about two men on a misbegotten quest to save the girl they failed to save decades before 1991. Near Checkpoint Zulu, one hundred miles from the Kuwaiti border, Thomas Benton meets Arwood Hobbes. Benton is a British journalist who reports from war zones in part to avoid his lackluster marriage and a daughter he loves but cannot connect with; Arwood is a midwestern American private who might be an insufferable ignoramus, or might be a genuine lunatic with a death wish--it's hard to tell. Desert Storm is over, peace has been declared, but as they argue about whether it makes sense to cross the nearest border in search of an ice cream, they become embroiled in a horrific attack in which a young local girl in a green dress is killed as they are trying to protect her. The two men walk away into their respective lives. But something has cracked for them both. Twenty-two years later, in another place, in another war, they meet again and are offered an unlikely opportunity to redeem themselves when that same girl in green is found alive and in need of salvation. Or is she? "--… (lisätietoja)
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Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 7) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
"The Girl In Green" is one of those books that I want to tell everyone else I know to read but which is difficult either to summarise or categorise, so I'll start with why I like it so much.

I love Derek Miller's ability to bring to bear his deep knowledge of the lives of the soldiers, NGOs and civilians who struggle within Middle East war zones, while creating credibly imperfect characters whose worldviews barely overlap and tieing them together in a story arc that stretches decades, embraces difficult moral challenges, recognises that there are no easy answers and yet never slides into voyeurism or despair. He even manages to pepper the story with the kind of grim humour that offers a way of not losing your sanity when you recognise the cruelties you are powerless to change or stop.

Derek Miller leads us through this bleak landscape in the company of a British journalist, Thomas Benton, a US Army private, Arwood Hobbes and a Swedish Aid Worker, Märta Ström. The story starts in Kuwait in 1991, shortly after the end of Desert Storm. Benton and Hobbes find themselves in the middle of a slaughter from which they attempt, unsuccessfully, to rescue a young girl in a green dress who they've only just met. The brutality of what they see and their own powerless scars both of them deeply enough to reshape their lives.
They don't meet again until 2013 when a video showing a girl in green in another desert war drives Hobbes to entice Benton back to a war zone for one last time on what may or may not be a Quixotic mission to rescue a girl they both saw die twenty-two years earlier.
The story that follows is tense and surprising, filled with a diverse set of characters are larger than life and yet, in their circumstances, quite believable. It has many memorable scenes that I mentally gave titles like "The bit with the frozen Chickens", "The bit with the boy in the minefield", "The bit with that grinning bastard with a gun". If there was nothing more to "The Girl In Green" than that, it would be well worth reading as a slightly quirky, indy-thriller with a slightly off-beat sense of humour, yet the book offers much more than that.

For me, the main pleasure of "The Girl In Green" came not from its plot but from the truths it told and the worldviews of the people it presented. The gap of twenty-two years is important. It's enough time for people to change, for their memories to haunt them, for their dreams to die and yet, after all that time, there is still a desert war, this time in Syria, with foreign soldiers, journalists and aid workers following their own agendas and trying and inevitably failing, to understand the people waging the war or falling victim to it.
Benton has spent his life reporting wars without ever being able to make them or himself understood back home. Hobbes has made the full transition from ignorant grunt to commercial contractor. Ström is now more experienced, more senior but less hopeful than before about her ability even to limit the damage being done.

I liked the way the book acknowledged and demonstrated the cultural differences between the various foreigners involving themselves in desert wars: American, British, Swedish and French, with each of them absorbing and responding to the foreign war in their own way. This was a pleasant change for Hollywood's unrelenting mono-culturalism.

I came away knowing how little we who sit in safety, watching the world through social media and newsfeeds, understand of the reality of the wars being fought in the Middle East. We are fed context-light, often fact-free, ideology-led stories that explain our involvement and our impact with all the depth, accuracy and independence of thought of an infomercial for selling exercise equipment to the obese.

"The Girl Green" shows the damage we do and the damage that is done to us in a very human way. It pulls no punches but it pushes no ideology other than a commitment to honesty. It left me feeling that there are no right answers here but there are many wrong ones and that we are as likely to support them as oppose them.

I strongly recommend this book to you if you want to be entertained and given the opportunity to think outside your normal patterns. ( )
  MikeFinnFiction | May 16, 2020 |
Witty dialogue and vivid scenery made this an interesting and fast read. The author has his Ph.D. in international relations, so there were some chapters that read more like an NPR investigative report. In general, this was an enjoyable read. ( )
  amylee39 | Jul 16, 2018 |
I am drawn to this author. I loved [Norwegian at Night] which was his first published novel. This one is written in a similar style in a very different setting. The story takes place in Iraq, first in 1991 and then 2013. The author is well versed in the work of humanitarian aid organizations which informed his story-telling and sense of place. The reader is taken back and forth from the present to events in the past that impacted the way a particular character was thinking or acting. I think Miller gets the balance just right, enough background to inform, but not overwhelm the narrative of the present story. For those sensitive to tough violence, there are scenes that are not right for you. That said, the violence was impactful, but not gratuitous. The only criticism I have is a small one about the last chapter. After all the action in the book, that last chapter serving as an epilogue was too sluggish for my taste, but then that pace adequately fit the mood so there’s that. I’m not sure what I was hoping for, but I was a little let down by the conclusion, not the outcome, just the pace. Can’t say more without spoilers. Highly recommend this book for readers who like fast paced action, lots of dialogue, pop culture references, reflection on real events, dark humor. ( )
  beebeereads | Mar 25, 2018 |
I loved Norwegian by Night, still think about Sheldon Horowitz on some days, and I loved this book too. It is a totally different story and done just as well. The location of Iraq, during two different periods of our involvement in the country, meshed well together. Even if some of the situations and actions of the two protagonists are a little unbelievable, it is a novel of fiction with a satisfying story line that you are drawn into in the first chapter.The first two reviewers have given a detailed synopsis of the book so no need to reiterate the plot line. However, the character of Arwood is every bit the unlikely hero that Sheldon was in Norwegian by Night. Derek Miller is an exceptional novelist and I look forward to his next book as well as his next subject for that book. ( )
  kmmt48 | Feb 22, 2017 |
THE GIRL IN GREEN works well as a pretty good thriller, but better as a commentary on how the good intentions of the West in the Middle East were subverted by incompetence. Following the Gulf War, soldiers were forced to sit around and watch Saddam Hussein’s soldiers massacre thousands of Kurds and Shia Muslims. The cold blooded execution of the girl in green by a Baathist colonel serves both as a striking metaphor for the West’s passivity in the face of this atrocity and as a source of guilt for the two protagonists of the novel— Thomas Benton and Arwood Hobbes.

This murder was only one of several images highlighting a level of incompetence reminiscent of Joseph Heller’s iconic anti war novel “Catch 22.” Indeed there is no shortage of other images of ineptitude. We are treated to an hilarious scene depicting an Air Force airdrop of frozen chickens onto starving Iraqi refugees and aid workers; Arwood’s inability to receive much needed psychological counseling because that benefit was reserved for those “not really needing it;” an incompetent junior officer berating Arwood for daring to get involved in local matters following his heroic rescue of Benton and attempt to save the girl in green; and soldiers helplessly standing around while a child is trapped in a minefield. Innocent children seem to be Miller’s most compelling image.

The true heroes of this novel are the humanitarian relief workers, primarily represented by Märta Strom, a Swedish Red Cross agent who has been stoically working to salvage shreds of humanity under the most adverse and dangerous of conditions for the two decades covered by the novel. She also plays a key role in rescuing the two protagonists when they embark on a risky and quixotic mission to rescue another girl in green 22 years following the original execution. Miller’s choice to set the main action of his novel 22 years following the original murder is inspired for three reasons. First, it highlights how the original Middle Eastern intervention by the West never resolved anything. In fact, it exacerbated the terror, giving rise of ISIS, accompanied by threats of torture, intimidation, ransoming, roadblocks and random executions. Second, the protagonists have evolved. Hobbes is now a gunrunner, still located in the Middle East, and Benton is a 63-year-old burnout in a failing marriage and unable to connect with his adult daughter. Third, a 22 year hiatus congers images of the famous “Catch 22.”

Both Benton and Hobbes are fully realized and nuanced characters that travel arcs. In 1991, Benton is ambitious and curious about ferreting out the truth of events in Hussein’s Iraq following the Gulf War. In 2013, he is reluctant to get involved in Hobbes’ harebrained adventure to rescue a girl in green he saw on a video and believes is the same one they could not save in 1991.

Hobbes is aptly named for Thomas Hobbes, the political philosopher who maintained that government was the main bulwark between society and chaos. In “Leviathan,” Thomas Hobbes described what he called man’s “natural state” that would evolve in the absence of political structure with words that are eerily evocative of the Middle East today (“…continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”). Arwood Hobbes starts as a naive private from the American heartland who evinces a strong sense of honesty and honor. He may be quite brave, or just reckless and a little insane. These latter traits lead to a general discharge from the Army and, following some floundering, a career as a gunrunner.

Miller taps into his experience in Iraq to give us a thriller that is both darkly humorous and iconoclastic. Obviously he feels strongly about the mistakes that were made in the Middle East and occasionally becomes a little too didactic. Yet he provides a thrilling story and refrains from providing facile answers. ( )
1 ääni ozzer | Feb 22, 2017 |
Näyttää 1-5 (yhteensä 7) (seuraava | näytä kaikki)
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Englanninkielinen Wikipedia

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"From the author of Norwegian by Night, a novel about two men on a misbegotten quest to save the girl they failed to save decades before 1991. Near Checkpoint Zulu, one hundred miles from the Kuwaiti border, Thomas Benton meets Arwood Hobbes. Benton is a British journalist who reports from war zones in part to avoid his lackluster marriage and a daughter he loves but cannot connect with; Arwood is a midwestern American private who might be an insufferable ignoramus, or might be a genuine lunatic with a death wish--it's hard to tell. Desert Storm is over, peace has been declared, but as they argue about whether it makes sense to cross the nearest border in search of an ice cream, they become embroiled in a horrific attack in which a young local girl in a green dress is killed as they are trying to protect her. The two men walk away into their respective lives. But something has cracked for them both. Twenty-two years later, in another place, in another war, they meet again and are offered an unlikely opportunity to redeem themselves when that same girl in green is found alive and in need of salvation. Or is she? "--

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