British journalist Hilsum (Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution, 2012) builds on her personal experiences with reporting from war zones to relate the death-defying professional wanderings of Marie Colvin (1956-2012).
Colvin lost an eye while reporting the war in Sri Lanka, and she wore a patch for her remaining years. In 2012, while working in a deadly area of Syria, she was killed by an explosion. Thanks to journals, appointment diaries, and unpublished reporting notes that she took starting at age 13, Hilsum is able to portray Colvin in remarkable fullness. “She was the most admired war correspondent of our generation,” writes the author, “one whose personal life was scarred by conflict, too, and although I counted her as a friend, I understood so little about her.” By many indications, Colvin’s childhood on Long Island, her adolescence, and her early work life didn’t point to decades of dangerous work as a war correspondent. But from an early age, she also demonstrated an attraction to danger and hard living, including substance abuse and relationships with unstable men. Though some readers may pity Colvin for the life she chose, which included a periodic desire for motherhood that she never attained, most will view her life with great admiration. She was extremely loyal to friends and lovers, showed empathy for the dispossessed in war-torn, genocidal nations, and participated in unmatched global adventures. Hilsum skillfully explains the politics, economics, ethnic hatreds, and additional context of the nations where Colvin reported, with emphases on Libya, Chechnya, Zimbabwe, Kosovo, East Timor, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, and Syria. Mixed in with the globe-trotting, Colvin lived a complicated day-to-day life in both England and the United States, intervals explained with admirable detail and subtlety by the author, who draws on face-to-face interviews as well as the papers left behind by Colvin.
A rip-roaring life rendered extremely well.