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An Evil Cradling (1992)

by Brian Keenan

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5131134,467 (4.15)4
Brian Keenan went to Beirut in 1985 for a change of scene from his native Belfast. He became headline news when he was kidnapped by fundamentalist Shi'ite militiamen and held in the suburbs of Beirut for the next four and a half years. For much of that time he was shut off from all news and contact with anyone other than his jailers and, later, his fellow hostages, amongst them John McCarthy.… (more)

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A sometimes harrowing but never gratuitous account of the author's experiences as a hostage in Lebanon in the late 1980s. Superb writing, full of compassion and honesty, tinged with some violence and extreme emotion. I had not expected to enjoy this book, nor to find it so very readable, but it was a selection for my local reading group, and turned out to be an excellent choice.

There's some dark humour here and there, and a light touch as the author writes as if observing his reactions at times. I don't know when I last found a non-fiction book as compulsive as this one - I expected to skim, but (other than a few poems) read every word.

Very highly recommended.

Longer review here: https://suesbookreviews.blogspot.com/2020/06/an-evil-cradling-by-brian-keenan.ht... ( )
  SueinCyprus | Jun 2, 2020 |
I've read a few prison memoirs, and while you may feel immense sympathy, and while the writing process may have been cathartic, they tend to be pretty samey and dull.
So I wasn't expecting to find this a *5 work, but it totally is. Brian Keenan had been away from Belfast on a teaching post, in Beirut for 4 months when he was kidnapped by islamic 'jihadists' and held prisoner for four and a half years.
This is an entirely engrossing read as Keenan delves into the recesses of his mind to explain how humans cope (or not) with the endless days of solitary confinement, the alternating friendly overtures and casual brutality of their jailers, the uncertainty - release now? later? or slaughter? ...and the mind numbing boredom. Eventually sharing a cell with fellow hostage John McCarthy (and at times with some Americans) he elaborates on the process of friendship amid such dire conditions. Their efforts to find amusement in makeshift games and humour, to confront their aggressors with whatever resistance they could.
Very memorable and well written account. ( )
  starbox | Nov 27, 2019 |
A beautifully written account of Keenan's time as a hostage in Lebanon, this is a moving and eloquent tribute to the human spirit. ( )
  bodachliath | Nov 4, 2014 |
An amazing book - one that moves me no matter how many times I read it - Keenan writes so eloquently about his experience. I would argue this is the must read book on the expereince of being a hostage. ( )
  Watwoman | Oct 22, 2011 |
Very moving account of 4 1/2 years of being held captive by terrorists in Lebanon. The strength of mind required to stay sane in solitary and very confined quarters is incredible. The compassion Brian Keenan shows towards many of his guards is inspiring. ( )
  torontolibrarian | Apr 5, 2011 |
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Brian Keenan went to Beirut in 1985 for a change of scene from his native Belfast. He became headline news when he was kidnapped by fundamentalist Shi'ite militiamen and held in the suburbs of Beirut for the next four and a half years. For much of that time he was shut off from all news and contact with anyone other than his jailers and, later, his fellow hostages, amongst them John McCarthy.

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