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When the War Was Over: Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge Revolution, Revised Edition

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  192 ratings  ·  30 reviews
The definitive book on the Cambodian revolution (Los Angeles Times Book Review) and winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, now with an extensive new chapter on today's Cambodia
ebook, 632 pages
Published November 1st 1998 by PublicAffairs (first published October 1986)
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Steve

I have read numerous books about the Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia, and studied the history and politics of Southeast Asia in the 1950'-70's, and found Becker's work in this text to be one of the definitive volumes of journalism and academic research ever written concerning this subject. As a correspondent for the Washington Post in the 70's, Becker closely followed the situation in SE Asia, becoming one of only two American journalists who visited Democratic Kampuchea immediately before it's f
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Deva
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jeremy
This must be the deepest, most document- and interview-rich study of the origins and operations of the Khmer Rouge regime that's out there. Becker manages to keep her evil subject at a distance to intellectually examine it, and she does that brilliantly. Her account of her 1978 Pol Pot interview is a let-down, and her too detailed history of the reasons for Vietnam's 1979 invasion and 10-year occupation was slow-going and a bit long, but always learned and never truly dull.

This is a 600 page tom
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Dan Wiencek
Beyond the atrocities shown in The Killing Fields is a story that stretches back to at least the 1950s, when the French relinquished control of Cambodia after nearly a century of colonial rule. Elizabeth Becker paints a picture of a society perennially looking back to a glorious past (the Khmer Empire, builders of Angkor Wat) while mired in day-to-day corruption and threatened by its larger, more determined neighbor: Vietnam. She explains why the Cambodian Communists led by Saloth Sar (later to ...more
Jennine
Not only an excellent overview of Cambodian history, but a superb place to begin learning about the complex and interconnected histories and relations of all the nations of Southeast Asia. Becker's book stretches from geopolitics to personal stories to explain how the Khmer Rouge rose to power and how their reign affected the Cambodian people. Dense, but lucidly written, and a compelling read.
Judy
Not the best-written book I've read, I found some of the prose, especially early in the book, to be repetitive and/or awkward. The last third of the book is more about the diplomatic relations between Cambodia and other countries, while the first part of the book is about how the Khmer Rouge era impacted individuals. An important part of world history.
Matthew
It's hard to overstate how fascinating - and, at times, sickening - this book was. The author gives a good overview of the origins of modern Cambodian nationalism, and ties that in to the origins of the Khmer Rouge. Then she shows how the Khmer Rouge isolated themselves and persuaded themselves into a self-destructive paranoid frenzy. And then we - the United States - supported the Khmer Rouge once they lost power, because China thought it was a good idea, and once you threw in a bunch of shitty ...more
Czarny Pies
Sep 29, 2014 Czarny Pies rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone wanting to read a history of the Khmer Revolution
Recommended to Czarny by: Philip Short
Shelves: asian-history
When the War Was Over is the work a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who also spent a great deal of time in Cambodia. Given the rather extraordinary nature and destruction of the Khmer Revolution, there is no relevant material in the archives that will be one day be made available to academics so they can write a definitive history of the period. It is entirely possible that Ms. Becker's book is the best one that will ever be available on the period.

Pol Pot's biographer Philip Short thinks that
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The Bookwyrm's Hoard
I find it impossible to rate this book on Goodreads' scale. Was it well-written? Very much so. But did I like it? I can't say that I did; this book was emotionally very difficult to read. Becker doesn't flinch from the brutality and horror perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge regime. The interviews in particular are heartrending and chilling. While I highly recommend When the War Was Over for researchers and scholars, and for those interested in how a society can be turned upside down almost overnight ...more
Jobi George
(a comment, not review)
'Reconstruction' or 'Construction'? I don't know what is it to call whatever is needed when the destruction done is measured up to that of an uprooted big old withered tree. The sort of confusion I'm getting at? This book, for the major part, is all about what the title says: digging to find the seed, showing its growth, telling what delayed whatever yet to happen, journalising what happened and then looking at the piled up rubble that hide the sun. Many books came out on
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Shirin
I bought this book in Phnom Penh, at the little gift store at the corner of the Tuol Sleng Genocide muzeum, and started reading while aboard a huge boat drifting gently down the Mekong river and did not stop until I was done.

Written by Elizabeth Becker, I can forgive anyone tourist or otherwise not a student of history and visiting Cambodia for the Wats, to not be interested in the book. It is after all a retelling of a very bleak and bloody past of a country's history.

I can say that not very ma
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Rakesh
The quintessential book for anyone wanting an understanding of the historical geopolitics of the region. Becker takes you on a journey, by first setting the scene of Cambodia and it's people. She portrays how the Khmer Rouge movement grew from a grassroots organisation to having absolute power through the actions and misdeeds of key players like the French, Sihanouk, and Lon Nol in a remarkably objective fashion – unlike many others regional commentators. The Pol Pot Regime’s spiraling dissent d ...more
May
This book does an excellent job of detailing the events that occurred from a foreigner looking at the events of the Khmer Rouge. I don't think it should be used alone though. There are other books that do a better job of telling this story from the point of view of those who lived it, in the context of the opinions of the actual time.



One of the things that bothered me was the depiction of Tiananmen Square. This showed a lack of understanding of the 9 months that led to the actual event; and sug
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Cameron
Monumental in scope and depth, Becker's comprehensive survey of recent Cambodian history ranges from astonishing in its analysis and intensely moving in its portrayal of victims and survivors, to numbingly dull in its meticulous coverage of documents, meetings and people involved in the evolution of communism in Cambodia. It is required reading for anyone who truly wants to understand the origins of the Khmer Rouge, though, and one of Becker's arguments is that the Khmer Rouge were not merely a ...more
Joe
I found the subtitle a little misleading. I expected more of an oral history told from the point of view of survivors of the Khmer Rouge regime. There was some of this, but also a lot of background info on ancient and modern Cambodia, a long section on Vietnam from the fall of Saigon until the invasion of Cambodia, some material pulled from the records of the infamous Tuol Sleng Security Prison, and a personal account of the author's two week "Potemkin Village" style tour of "Democratic Kampuche ...more
Yatin Patel
One of the worst history books I have ever read. Topic of Khmer rogue regime at the centre of the theme and this lady managed to screw the fun with extremely boring narrations. Seriously, just want my money back.
Maggie
So good. Becker has a completely unique perspective and knowledge of history of the Khmer Rouge. And she writes history the way it should be written.
Andrew Roberts
Well researched.
The personal interviews only adds to the immense sadness of this book.
Kate
Excellent history of what happened.
Korynn
Jun 07, 2007 Korynn rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in cambodia's history
Shelves: non-fiction
Elizabeth Becker, as a correspondent for the Washington Post had spent a great deal of time in Cambodia before the Khymer Rouge came to power. This book is her fascinating history of the political machinations of their most public figures within the last century. The horrors of the Khymer Rouge regime are here as well with some personal stories of people Ms. Becker knew to add a human touch to a larger story.
Cassie
Good overview of history. A lot of detail.
Michael VanZandt
A sprawling, but very readable account of the Khmer Rouge's rise to power and their struggle to maintain control. Becker does present a very thorough account of the political and foreign pressures at play throughout the short history of Democratic Kampuchea.
Jim
Really good, and covers EVERYTHING it seems. There are biases, pro Hun Sen for instance, but the writer moves easily between periods of history and reporting and telling her own bizarre visit to visit Pol Pot. Excellent and very thorough.
Amy
Outstanding book! Great research into how and why Cambodia got involved in a civil war that rocked the entire world. Definitely recommended read for anyone traveling to the Southeast Asia region or just interested in modern geo-political history!
Clay Evans
Fascinating reading for a Politics major. Becker's research of history is impeccable, her political understanding astute.

The tragedy is almost unfathomable, but Becker leads the reader to understand why and how it happened.
Eric
Another long read, but very cool to read a historical analysis of Indochina and the Khmer Rouge. It opened my eyes to the struggles that some of my co-workers have faced.
Ben
The best book I've found on the Cambodian genocide. Explains all the big power dynamics involved, while not forgetting the people who were the perpetrators and victims.
Corleen gallinger
informative and provides the reader with a path to a greater understanding of the incomprehensible that was Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge
Graham Speier
Top notch history. Well-detailed and interesting. She could scrap the 100 pages on the Vietnam war, but it's nonetheless interesting.
Elizabeth
In my mind, the best available history of Cambodia up until the defeat of the Khmer Rouge.
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