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A Season in Hell: My 130 Days in the Sahara with Al Qaeda

4.04  ·  Rating Details  ·  113 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
For decades, Robert R. Fowler was a dominant force in Canadian foreign affairs. In one heart-stopping minute, all of that changed. On December 14, 2008, Fowler, acting as the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy to Niger, was kidnapped by Al Qaeda, becoming the highest ranked UN official ever held captive. Along with his colleague Louis Guay, Fowler lived, slept and ate wi ...more
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 31st 2011 by HarperCollins Canada
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(showing 1-30 of 274)
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Dec 09, 2011 LA rated it liked it
Shelves: google-ebooks
It was an OK read, although I found myself putting it down and reading other things several times. The author did have an adventure, but told it in a fairly unemotional manner that failed to engage me.
May 30, 2013 Margaret rated it liked it
The account of the kidnapping and 130 days of captivity of two Canadian diplomats, Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, by Al Quaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Fowler was special envoy of UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon to promote peace negotiations in Niger when he, Guay, and their driver were abducted.

The Good

As Fowler states in the preface, this book is not an academic treatise on Al Qaeda or Islamic fundamentalism. Consequently, very little of the geopolitical issues surrounding the kidnapping
Chris Scott
Aug 20, 2014 Chris Scott rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sahara
Robert Fowler’s account of his four-month captivity in northern Mali with Louis Guay in 2009 doesn’t so much leap off the page as grab you by the ears and haul you in. I read it over a weekend because here at last is a lucid, thoughtful and detailed description of an experience about which many desert travellers wonder: ‘how would I cope?’. And before the first page is turned Fowler answers that question: ‘better than you’d assume’.

Thankfully, a lazy Day 1, Day 2… diary format is avoided. Instea
Ross Pennie
May 05, 2013 Ross Pennie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was riveted by this book, which I read on my way to the west coast of Africa. I was impressed by the clarity of the story's details and the refreshing lack of bitterness from the author. It gave me disturbing, vivid dreams that repeatedly interrupted my sleep. I couldn't put it it down. Fowler's criticism of the actions of our RCMP leadership fit well with most Canadians' view of a force that needs to be completely revamped from the top down.
Mar 15, 2012 Sandra rated it really liked it
I found this a very good read; The dispassionate approach makes it more factual and a lot easier to swallow. I know this part of the world and could rely on my own (very different) experience of the desert and the problems plaguing this area. Mr. Fowler's analysis of the situation is very relevant; what is more amazing to me is that he could and can separate these facts from his emotion. Very interesting.
Apr 22, 2012 Lauren rated it really liked it
Fascinating, easy read on what is a terrifying topic. Especially enjoyed the discussion of the rapport and interactions between Mr. Fowler and Mr. Guay and their captors.
Steven Langdon
Jan 08, 2013 Steven Langdon rated it it was amazing
Shelves: super
Robert Fowler has been at the heart of Canadian foreign policy for several decades -- as "sherpa" at the G8 Summit in 2002, Canada's ambassador to the UN when this country was on the Security Council, and a key public servant in the Defence Department. When he was kidnapped by Al Qaeda forces in West Africa in late 2008, it was almost the equivalent of former US ambassador to the UN Madelaine Albright being captured by Osama bin Laden -- except that the AQIM (Al Qaeda in the Magreb) that seized ...more
Jan 30, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was amazing
I raced throught this book, captivated from the very beginning. It was important to me to know that both the author and his companion, Louis, make it out alive. I might not have been as interested if the story came to a more tragic end.

The author's descriptions of his experience, his captors, his mental process of analyzing the siutation facing him is fascinating - if at times, a look into the darkness of the human soul. I found some of the author's character trait's annoying. At times, I wante
John Ison
Jun 26, 2013 John Ison rated it really liked it
I have to admit I only read this book because of the Canadian content and the author (and subject) is the godfather of close friend. However, it is a very well written, fascinating inside look at Al Quaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM). I mean very inside, Fowler spent 130 days as their hostage in the remote Sahara. I am amazed that the victims survived 130 days in hell at all much less relatively in tact physically and mentally with no experience or training to help. The story line is good, the detaile ...more
Jun 11, 2013 René rated it really liked it
Shelves: biographies
Quite refreshing after having read Ingrid Bettencourt's similar hostage story in the first person. This book has perspective and puts the author's very personal situation in the larger scheme of things. It also provides a solid criticism of the RCMP's role, as well as of DFAIT's and PAFSO's total lack of care and attention to the personal needs of the families who suffered through this ordeal. Well worth reading.
May 09, 2013 Iva rated it liked it
This was a pretty good book but a little long winded. The explanations of al quaeda's presence in africa was confusing and very complicated. It lost my interest and I ended up skipping chunks of chapters. It could have been written in more layman's terms. Nonetheless it was an important story to tell and it was a powerful story of survival and perseverence in the face of adversity.
Feb 05, 2013 Keisha rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned
While it was overall an interesting look into the harrowing experience of someone held hostage by al-Queda, it included too much minute, repetitive detail. I skimmed quite a bit. I enjoyed Fowler's reflections on al-Queda, national security, and international cooperation, but they were very few.
Sheri Robinson
Mar 15, 2013 Sheri Robinson rated it really liked it
Riveting. This is a book that every Canadian needs to read. Robert Fowler and a co-worker are taken hostage by terrorists and survive the horrible ordeal. Fowler describes not only the worst and scariest parts but also the mundane routine of everyday life in captivity.
Claudia Casper
Feb 18, 2013 Claudia Casper rated it liked it
Easy read, page turner, almost like an adventure book. Fascinating look into the everyday life of members of Al Queda in the magreb from the proximate outside. Because Fowler is clearly an atheist, his kidnappers remain opaque to him.
Dec 05, 2013 Doug rated it liked it
It was pretty interesting, sometimes exciting, but also a little long-winded and dry in parts, particularly all of the political details and commentary. Overall, though, a good story.
Oct 10, 2014 Kim rated it it was amazing
Very accessible read, with incredible detail considering Fowler was writing from memory.
May 08, 2013 Emily rated it really liked it
Shelves: work-school
Good insights on history, motivation, and organization of AQIM
Sarah marked it as to-read
Apr 13, 2016
Cobly rated it really liked it
Apr 11, 2016
Susan rated it it was amazing
Apr 05, 2016
Linda Perrone
Linda Perrone marked it as to-read
Apr 04, 2016
Heather E. Miller
Heather E. Miller marked it as to-read
Mar 29, 2016
Ahjansenshaw.Ca marked it as to-read
Mar 18, 2016
Flying rated it liked it
Mar 11, 2016
Jean-marcel rated it liked it
Mar 04, 2016
Blair Schulz
Blair Schulz rated it it was amazing
Mar 03, 2016
Faisalna Faisalna
Faisalna Faisalna marked it as to-read
Feb 25, 2016
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Robert R. Fowler is a Canadian diplomat. During his 38 year public service career, Robert Fowler was foreign policy advisor to Prime Ministers Trudeau, Turner and Mulroney, deputy minister of national defence and Canada’s longest serving ambassador to the United Nations. He was ambassador to Italy and three UN food agencies, sherpa for the Kananaskis G8 Summit and the personal representative for A ...more
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