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The Sewing Circles of Herat: A Personal Voyage Through Afghanistan

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  1,171 ratings  ·  128 reviews
Twenty-one-year-old Christina Lamb left suburban England for Peshawar on the frontier of the Afghan war. Captivated, she spent two years tracking the final stages of the mujaheddin victory over the Soviets, as Afghan friends smuggled her in and out of their country in a variety of guises.

Returning to Afghanistan after the attacks on the World Trade Center to report for Bri
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Paperback, 384 pages
Published February 3rd 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 2002)
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Average rating 3.86  · 
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Katie B
I wouldn't place this among the best books I have read about Afghanistan but it still was a decent read. Christina Lamb, co-author of I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, covered the Afghan war during the late 1980s. She returned to Afghanistan after September 11th to write about the people who lived under Taliban rule. This book was first published in 2002 and contains an afterword from Fall of 2003.

Having spent time covering the war in the
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Gary
Oct 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In these memoirs the author writes about her experiences in Afghanistan, a country with which she has come to care deeply about and to explore intimately.
She details her experiences with people she has interviewed and come to know in Afghanistan and what she has come to witness in her years there.
Through the book she shapes a history of Afghnanistan, a rich land of many nations which has been invaded by many from the armies of Alexander the Great, the Persians and Mongols, the British and Russia
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W
Oct 15, 2019 added it
Shelves: afghanistan
I read this,when it came out in 2004.Christina Lamb returns to Afghanistan,after having already been there during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s.Interesting,and chilling depiction of the atrocities committed by the Taliban.Also renews her acquintance with Hamid Karzai,whom she had met earlier,and who was President of Afghanistan at that time.Interestingly,while she finds a lot of fault elsewhere,particularly with Pakistan,she is quiet about the impact of the US invasion on the lives of Afgha ...more
Agustinus Wibowo
The best nonfiction book I have ever read on Afghanistan. Compelling story, vivid description, meticulous investigation, word class storytelling. It brought Afghanistan and Afghans come to live, this book even introduces Hamid Karzai as a person with humane feelings, not merely a president we used to see on press conference.

The most mindblowing chapter for me is Chapter 9:Face to Face with the Taliban, about Taliban and Pakistan interference in Afghanistan history and future.

"So many people had
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chucklesthescot
Mar 13, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: asian true life readers
Shelves: asian, non-fiction
This book was just an ego book for the author about HER journey and what SHE did rather than exploring the life of the people that she met. It was a 'As I was going through the town, here is what I was doing' instead of telling us about the town and its people. The title of the book is misleading as well as you only meet the women briefly in one chapter of the book and never hear from then again. I was expecting a book about these brave women meeting in secret to defy the hardline men but they w ...more
Hope
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was ok
I finished this book but had a hard time with it. The book meandered through scads of tribal history, introducing what felt like hundreds of names, without giving providing a clear picture of the historical events or their context. It needed an editor with a sharper eye to readability and continuity.
Claire Croxton
Oct 31, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is a very compelling book. One that I took me quite some time to finish because I was unable to read more than a few pages at a time. Very disturbing. Another one of those, “Thank God I live in the United States” books.

Ms. Lamb traveled to the region in the 1980s and was captivated by the Afghans, the mujaheddin who was fighting the Soviets. She rode on motorbikes with the bearded mujaheddin and was literally in the trenches with them as they fought for their country’s freedom.

After the b
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Maranda (addlebrained_reader)
Christina Lamb is a journalist from England who has traveled to Afghanistan several times in her career. These visits to this country have ranged from before and after 9/11 and the terrorist attack on the United States.

This book is checkered throughout with letters from a young lady, Marri, in Afghanistan who explains of her love of dancing and red lipstick. However, Marri's letters are also full of fear, anger and hurt because of the men who force her to hide beneath the burqa.

In this book, Chr
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Nick
Jun 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
The "sewing circles" were an excuse for girls to gather under the Taliban. Surreptitious classes were given, and a half-finished dress was kept handy for when the Taliban police showed up to check. Of all the books I have read about Afghan culture--a misnomer really, since the country is a collection of peoples that no empire could handle--Christina Lamb seems to know it best and have the greatest sympathy. She travelled with some of the Taliban when they were just a group fighting the Russians ...more
Shahana
Oct 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
've lost count of how much fiction on or by Afghans I've read over the years - starting from Rabindranath's Kabuliwala and MM Kaye's Far Pavilions to Rumi and then to Khaled Hosseini, Nadia Hashimi, Yasmina Khadra, Asne Seierstad....Afghanistan has always been the darling of writers and journalists because few countries can claim a more poignant and moving history, which is still in the making.
This one, however, is special in its own way; the author is both a writer and a journalist; weaving a t
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Nancy
Jan 28, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this book recommended to me by my dauther Elizabeth. Written by a British woman journalist, it details her two trips to Afghanistan. It includes a great deal of history and accounts of her interviews with powerful Afghan leaders. The sewing cirlce potion of the book is minimal, but it does contribute to the general theme of the book which is the tragedy that has befallen a once proud country.
Fiona
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I admire Christina Lamb's journalism and this book is an exceptional example of her in depth knowledge of her chosen subjects. My only criticism would be that at times I found myself questioning her objectivity but that might be unfair. Having met her at a litfest, I'm sure she would happily debate that point as she is one of the most intelligent journalists I've listened to or read.
Sally Edsall
Jan 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a bit of a “wow!” book in the sense I kept thinking “wow - how did you get access there!”

It covers a lot of Afghan history (you have to concentrate because it does jump around, but it’s important). We learn about the centuries old tribal enmities, the royal period. In the period of the mujahideen fighting the soviets, Lamb is in the ditches during battle with the jihadis!

Twelve years after leaving after the Soviets are (briefly) victorious, Lamb goes back, after 9/11 and after the Talib
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Cheryl Gatling
Christina Lamb is a British journalist. In the 1980s she reported on the Afghans' war with Russia. She thrived on danger, disguising herself to get as close to the front as she could, riding on motorbikes with mujaheddin, some of whom would go on to become leaders of the Taliban, and one of whom, Hamid Karzai, who would go on to become President of Afghanistan. Then she returned home, married, and had a child.

After 9/11 she went back. This time she found an Afghanistan struggling to recover fro
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Cheryl
May 03, 2016 rated it liked it
An interesting look at Afghanistan both pre- and post-9/11. This book contained enough history and cultural information that you can understand why things haven't changed there in hundreds of years, no matter how much progress is made. The discussion of the role of the King (I didn't know there ever was one) and of Hamid Karzai both before and after the World Trade Center were also very educational. I was a little disappointed, though, in how much of the book was NOT about the sewing circles of ...more
Janette Wilkins
Jun 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
I found this book full of history, struggle, courage - a much needed glimpse into the world of the real people of Afghanistan. It is a serious read which takes some energy depending on your background with the history of the country. Definitely worth while if you like narrative fiction and want to learn something.
Brooke
Mar 07, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in Afghanistan
Recommended to Brooke by: the web site for "A Thousand Splendid Suns"
Absolutely fascinating! A slower read, a little detail dense, but so interesting. I am going so slow because every few pages I read I have to spend the next five minutes telling my husband about what I just learned.
Lynne
Mar 01, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: did-not-finish
Although educational, I abandoned this book after the umpteenth depiction of torture.. I should have researched the book prior to starting it. Based on the title, I expected a book about women in Afghanistan rather brutal descriptions of torture. My fault.
Marie Greaney
A book that is not about the sewing circles of Herat - women meeting ostensibly to sew (which was allowed) but actually to read (which was not, unless it was the Koran). It was about Afghanistan, the Taliban, history, war, torture, destruction, etc.
Megan
Oct 15, 2007 rated it really liked it
I found this book entertaining and educational. I learned alot about Afghanistan, and also felt more conflicted about America's role there after reading.
Aparna Singh
Feb 24, 2017 rated it it was ok
There are some interesting stories in this book based on the author's work in Afghanistan over two time periods (during the Soviet war and immediately after 2001).

However a few things spoilt it for me.

There is a lack of depth to most of the stories, which seem to be about the author more than the people she meets. I suspect this could be because it is hard to really get into another culture as an outsider, especially if one is using an interpreter to talk!

Secondly there is hardly anything about
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Janet
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. Informative, interesting and, in parts, quite shocking in man's inhumanity to man (and woman, obviously).

I did actually know Afghanistan had a monarchy, although nothing much about it, and that the country had a turbulent history. Not helped, of course, by the imperialist tendencies of its neighbours.

Well worth taking the time to read.
Ang
I found the chronology a little difficult at times, unsure which visit to Afghanistan I was in. I found the title not fully reflective of the content - I guess I was hoping to see more on womens insight from inside the war, and less on the history and machinations of war.
Vicki Klemm
Aug 07, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started reading this book earlier in the year and could not get in to it, but this time I found it interesting and captivating. Learned a lot about the history around Taliban/ ISIS/ CIA involvement, etc...
D
Jan 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Christina Lamb conveys her love for Afganistan in this memoir. There were so many threads in this book I wanted to follow further... like the clandestine sewing classes!
Lou Sills
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: hx, feminalia
Painful in some respects but yet so inspiring.
Eloise
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Christina Lamb had access to some people and places that I would not have thought possible. That alone intrigued me about the book. At one point she is literally in a ditch with the mujahideen whilst being attacked by the Russians.

She covers a lot of history which I found very interesting but would really need to re-read and take notes to follow it all more fully.

She introduces us to some fascinating, sometimes horrific, stories and situations including talking with a former Taliban torturer.


Mike
Jun 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Richard Maconachie, one-time British Minister to Kabul, wrote, “Throughout the country [of Afghanistan] the advantages of anarchy seem to have been better appreciated than its drawbacks.” And in Lamb’s book an unnamed Afghan boasts: “Fighting is our problem. We fight with everything. Afghans are world champions in fighting.”
Many people might have thought that before the infamous regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan, (who, according to the Afghans, are Pakistani puppets) this country was quiet an
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Becky
Feb 23, 2017 rated it liked it
I'm torn between 3 and 4 stars. A lot of her story is immensely interesting and provides a good look at the individual Afghan men and women that are on both sides (including Taliban).

However, it delves a little too much into history sometimes, which, though interesting, is a little overwhelming to try to keep the names, dates, and tribal factions straight, so it ends up being a little lost on me.

The bigger thing, though, is that the seeing circles - the stated premise of the book's back cover -
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Ron
Apr 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Not knowing Christina Lamb's reputation as an award-winning, hardcore journalist, I started this book expecting it to explore the domestic arts and social conditions of women in this regional center of Afghanistan. Wrong. Couldn't be more wrong. This is a hard-hitting look at the combined political, military, and religious forces that over the last three decades have shattered this country.

Not that Afghanistan was ever a peaceable kingdom, its brief periods of relative calm punctuated over 5000
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Christina Lamb OBE is one of Britain's leading foreign correspondents. She has been named Foreign Correspondent of the Year five times in the British Press Awards and What the Papers Say Awards and in 2007 was winner of the Prix Bayeux Calvados - one of the world's most prestigious prizes for war correspondents, for her reporting from Afghanistan.

She has won numerous other awards starting with You
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