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The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  525 ratings  ·  99 reviews
"Gripping, heartbreaking reading...The interweaving of Hemingway's story, the students' narratives of terror and Huntley's own tales of discovery make for a book that is stirring and nearly impossible to put down."

In August 2000, Paula Huntley's husband took a leave of absence from his teaching post at a law school, and she resigned from her marketing job of thirteen years
Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 2nd 2004 by TarcherPerigee (first published January 1st 2003)
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3.75  · 
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 ·  525 ratings  ·  99 reviews

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Aug 24, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
I didn't decide that I liked this book until the very last few pages. I thought the title was misleading as most of the book had very little to do with her teaching Hemingway and a lot to do with her own personal thoughts about the pollution, Kosovar's view of Americans, whether or not they had electricity that day etc.

The title comes a name she gives a group of students she is teaching English to. She only has one Hemingway book, The Old Man and the Sea, that she makes copies of for her class.
John Brookes
Jun 14, 2011 rated it liked it
The premise of this book is that it is culled from a series of journal extracts and emails written by Paula Huntley during her year-long stay in Kosovo where she travelled with her husband, teaching English at the University in Pristina. Indeed Paula herself calls this "an accidental book", and whilst the diary format has no doubt undergone a degree of rewriting prior to publication, the format does give an immediacy and honesty to the narrative: Paula questions her own innermost motivations in ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
No, with killing and bombings
and trash dumped in the street
and racial hatred, Kosovo doesn't
sound like a great place to visit.
But when Paula Huntley's husband
was sent to Kosovo to help
establish a legal system, Huntley
impulsively decides to accompany
him and later jumps into teaching
a group of Kosovo Albanians
English. Unexpectedly, Huntley
falls in love---with the country,
with its people.

Yes, I'd heard of Kosovo, but
I doubt I'd have been able to
write a coherent essay explaining
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the ideal book, really -- easy and entertaining to read, but also insightful and thought-provoking. It is basically a memoir of a middle-aged American woman who lives in Kosovo for eight months, shortly after NATO drove the Serbs out, while her husband tried to help establish a system to create and enforce the rule of law. The author, Paula Huntley, teaches a group of young people English -- in part by leading a reading discussion book based on the book The Old Man and the Sea.

As I read
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book by and about an American woman who went to Kosovo and ended up gaining lifelong friendships with many Kosovo Albanians. The book is a good resource for those who seek to learn more bout the horrible Serbian/Albanian war of 1998 and 1999.

But is also is about hope and commitment and the future. I really enjoyed it.
May 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book has been sitting on my shelf for the better part of a decade, and I’m feeling a bit stupid now that I only just got around to it. Huntley’s short memoir, comprised of various outtakes from a journal she kept during her time in postwar Kosovo, relates both humbling humanity and almost unthinkable savagery. I remember only vaguely hearing about the Balkan conflicts when they were happening. I was only a freshman in high school in 1999, and it struck me in much the way the Rwandan conflic ...more
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
What can I say except this was an absolutely excellent book with so much historical information interwoven into the narrative. A good friend of ours just returned from a 2-year Peace Corps. stint in Macedonia. Now I want to talk with him in more depth about his experiences; I feel as if I have a better understanding of that area. Well, actually, to be honest, I now have a bit of KNOWLEDGE and thereby understanding. (Whereas before, I simply had no knowledge!) I am so grateful Huntley shared her ...more
Aug 16, 2007 rated it it was ok
I chose this book to gain a better understanding of the Kosovo (ethnic Albanian) side of the Balkans conflict(s). Mission accomplished, but only at a very shallow level. The book reads like the author's personal journal, perhaps a 5th grade reading level? I feel bad being critical, but the writing is elementary and the analysis and expression of insight and experiences is equally elementary (and repetitive). I'm quite disappointed. But, I have to admit that it's interesting enough for me to fini ...more
Aug 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
A book that shakes up one's perspective on life. We are so blessed in this country with freedom, affluence and comfort it is easy to forget most of the world doesn't live that way.
Favorite quotations:
" In Kosovo, parents constantly hug and stroke and caress their children. Children, teenagers, love their fathers and mothers. They do not feel entitled to demand, to misbehave, to argue with or terrorize their parents. What are we Americans doing wrong?" p. 148
"...the isolation, the ignorance of
Mar 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I probably would have never read this book if it wouldn't have been chosen by the book club that I recently joined, but I am really glad I read this. As Paula mentions several times in the book, Kosovars don't know a lot about the world outside of Kosovo, but Americans should know. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans don't know, and I am one of them. This book was very eye opening to the struggles that people face. It also shows that ethnic problems exist just about everywhere. It is amazing that ...more
May 07, 2007 rated it liked it
Better than "Reading Lolita in Tehran" (or at least I liked it better), focusing more on the people and culture of the time and less on drawing stretched-out parallels with over-baked literary analysis.

My one critique - of the author, not the book itself - is that in spite of living in Kosova for over a year, she apparently never learned more than a word or two of Albanian, which is a) annoyingly "typical American" and b) makes me raise an eyebrow toward her capability for cultural analysis, bu
Saleh MoonWalker
Onvan : The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo - Nevisande : Paula Huntley - ISBN : 1585422932 - ISBN13 : 9781585422937 - Dar 272 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2003
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
A wonderful memoir that illustrates the power of language.
Bob Walenski
Apr 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is made up of a series of Journal entries by Huntley, mostly made during her tenure as an ESL teacher in Kosovo. It's informal, brief, anecdotal and easy to like. She mostly describes the people, her students, as well as the time and place. Shocking and eye opening are the first words that come to mind!
I found the story here to be overwhelmingly bitter sweet. For every wonderful item Huntley portrays, the flip side is dark and horrible. The hope and love generated by her time and effor
Oct 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ihr
A great read for anyone looking for insight into the Kosovo situation, post Serbian war. I have worked overseas and really appreciated the author's perspective, it makes me think I'm not crazy after all, things really are that messed up - that is, unfortunately, a bit of a relief. I've never quite understood all of the aspects of conflicts involved here, but this diary-to-book was really helpful. Somehow it explains how both sides of conflict feel justified in their own violence 'for a higher ca ...more
Diana Petty-stone
Oct 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: want-to-read
This is the story of an American lady who went to Kosovo and taught Albanians English after the war. Her husband signed on with the American Bar Association to help build a modern legal system in the torn and broken country. The story of the survivors and the devastation of the country are balanced by the strength and determination of the people to have a better life is awe inspiring. They are able to see their own struggles in the Hemingway book "The Old Man and the Sea".
Oct 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
A powerful story of the strength of humanity, tolerance, and understanding. Huntley takes her readers on a teacher's journey to not only educate her students, but to provide them with a space in which they can fully express themselves. Along the way, we learn about the tragic history surrounding these students through Huntley's keen eyes and the many relationships she develops within the community.
Mary Larsen
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Good book. Because I visited Macedonia during this time frame and have friendships across the Balkens, I found this an interesting read, one with hope and appreciation for the author's thoughts. This is basically her journal from the time she spent is Pristina - and the immediate time after. It is an easy read and I enjoyed it.
Terry Tracz
May 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
A heartfelt, realistic look at the plight of Kosova Albanians after the UN stepped in to prevent further genocide by the Serbs in 1999, written by a brave American who was there and did her best to help. We all need to learn from such suffering if we are ever to make true progress as human beings.
Jan 07, 2019 rated it liked it
Resilience and hope.

I picked this book up from my library on a whim because I'm trying to read more non-fiction and I had "The Old Man and the Sea" at home.

Turned out to be a good decision.
Interesting and insightful and enjoyable reading.
Feb 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Because this is a country I visited a couple of years after the author, I had many similar experiences. In that sense it was neat being able to connect with the author’s stories and to remember the Albanians I met and came to love.
Aug 11, 2017 rated it liked it
We have to believe that even the briefest human connections can heal.
This was a Reading Group Choices recommendation and I found it to be interesting and informative. I can see how this book could certainly generate a lively discussion in your reading group particularly if everyone was interested in political issues and the recent conditions of unrest in the Balkan countries. This is a non-fiction account of Paula Huntley and her husband, Ed Villmoare, who go to Kosovo as part of the United States attempt to help establish a modern legal system. Ed has been asked ...more
Kyle Murway
Jan 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was a little disappointed, as some other people who wrote reviews, that the title of the book was a little misleading. The book went into great detail about the war in Kosovo between the Albanians and Serbian ethnicities. At times, it felt like a historical fiction book with some journalistic tendencies. However, Paula's story is a personal journal were she reminisces, daily, on life at the turn of the century in Kosova. Paula's husband has been driven to this crumpled, disputed land to help a ...more
Jul 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Paula Huntley and her lawyer husband, Ed, make a daring decision to move (for an indefinite period of time) to Prishtina, Kosovo, in 2000 following the 1998-2000 war there between the Albanians and Serbs. (This was the tail end of the horrific civil war that occurred in the former Yugoslavia/Balkans during the 1990s.) Ed's presence is desired to help set up a functioning legal/judicial system in the stricken country, while Paula....wasn't sure what she'd do in the war-devastated city until after ...more
Eugene Kernes
Jul 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel-history
Great story about Kosovo after the war in 1999. The author, who is also the protagonist of the story, does a great job at explaining various perspectives and trying to make sense of them. Paula thought that life in Kosovo would be very difficult due to a huge reduction of living standards that she was used to, but to her surprise found life to be tolerable and enjoyable. Problems are relative, for in Kosovo, regular annoyances perceived as problems are not real problems. When news comes out abou ...more
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was a little intimidated by this book at first. I know little about Hemingway (I was supposed to read The Sun Also Rises in senior English but, um, didn't) and even less about Kosovo. "The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo" ... was I in over my head on this one?

Well, it didn't take long before I was engrossed in this very readable book, learning a little about Hemingway and a lot about the crisis in Kosovo in the process. I loved the stories of hope from the lives of Huntley's ESL students. She wr
Jul 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In 1999, 800,000 Kosovo Albanians poured over their borders, bringing stories of torture, rape, and massacre. One year later, Paula Huntley's husband signed on with the American Bar Association to build a legal system there, and she accompanied him. Huntley found a position teaching English as a second language to a group of Kosovo Albanians in Prishtina. The Hemingway Book Club of Kosovo is the journal Huntley kept over the eight months that she lived and worked in Kosovo. When Huntley asked he ...more
Sep 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
This book was picked for me as a book group read after a member of our book group sold a house to the author, Paula Huntly. Knowing that the author was going to be at our book group made me really dive into this book and soak up everything about it.

As I read this book I just felt really embarrassed at my lack of knowledge about the Kosovar people and their recent history. I loved that Mrs. Huntly, while living in Kosovo with her husband trying to help with reconstruction, took on the daunting ta
Oct 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
The author takes us through her experience as an outsider in Kosovo. Her position as a teacher gives her unprecedented access to the hearts and minds of youth with war, genocide, and ethnic hatred seared into their experiences. Her humble approach and openness leads to incredible insight. It paints a picture of just how indelible are the marks of war, and that complete healing is just not possible. But it also describes with great hope the strides forward that are being made...and that are worth ...more
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“If optimism is the highest form of courage -- as I am beginning to believe it is -- then these students are all heroes.” 4 likes
“Tonight I write this journal entry on my laptop. Other nights I have handwritten entries in notebooks. Sometimes I jot down notes as I ride home in the cab or wait for an appointment. I want all of this -- everything and everyone -- to stay with me.” 3 likes
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