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Emma's War: Love, Betrayal and Death in the Sudan

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  1,634 Ratings  ·  170 Reviews
Emma's War Love, corruption, violence and the dangerous politics of aid in the Sudan, by an exciting new writer. Full description
Paperback, 389 pages
Published 2004 by HarperCollins (first published 2002)
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Sep 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As an aid worker currently in Sudan, I just had to grab this book. The story of Emma is not actually what is central to the book. It's almost as if she and her marriage to "a war lord" is some skeleton holding together the true story, the story of The Sudan. That being said, it's all very well written, very informative, and for someone currently in the context (and are you ready for a shocker?) the people, the places, and the feeling for those in aid to Sudan is VERY similar to how it is now. Ma ...more
Aug 19, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am always acutely aware of all that I don’t know and rarely feel informed enough to comment on anything. However, Scroggins does such an excellent job of painting the history and politics of Sudan that I actually feel like I know something about the Country. She uses Emma McCune’s life as a sort of sausage casing , in which she stuffs the famine, tribal warfare, religious ferocity,intervention and interruptions of the west, politics of funding wars, chase for black gold, race and racism, slave ...more
Catherine Morrow
Feb 18, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Don't read this. Way too dense with detail, very weak plot and a really hard read.
Aug 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this book! I read it in two days! The author's ability to weave in the history of the conflict in the Sudan (conflict b/w the north and south and since the 1950s)with her travel there as a journalist in the late 1980s/early 90s covering famine with that of Emma McClune, a British Aid Worker, who marries a war lord, is remarkable and makes for a story that's hard to put down. She truely is a talented writer who makes reading history (which even I mostly find boring- not because ...more
I read Emma's War in a couple of days. The story is a disturbing one and I guess I wanted it over quickly, like ripping a Band-aid off to minimize the pain. Deborah Scroggins does an excellent job of summarizing the hugely complicated issue of civil wars in Sudan. Into the story of people fighting over religious, linguistic, monetary, ethnic and other differences, she weaves her own experiences and the personal story of Emma McCune.

Emma was an idealistic young British woman who was fascinated b
Irie Gonah
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Emma's War is a wonderful true novel. I instantly loved this book. I really liked it because not only did it tell Emma's story but it also gave incredible insight on the on going civil war in Sudan. It is a must read if you like to know about genocides, famines, and civil war. The way Scroggin described events was just amazing, I felt as if I was in there. Before reading this novel I did not know much about Sudan's history and how the war started and the details about them, now I know way more! ...more
G. Kretchmer
Emma's War is part journalistic nonfiction, part biography, part memoir. In its function as a distant discussion of the Sudanese civil war that's been raging for decades, it did a fine job. As an American, I don't usually understand clearly the many layers of strife that underlie conflict in distant lands and cultures, and Ms. Scroggins attempted to explain what is both complex and somewhat inexplicable. I now have a much better understanding of the religious and tribal animosities in that land, ...more
Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
part history of sudan, with a focus on the late 80s/early 90s period of the civil war, part exploration of the complexities of the aid business. i found this book to be digestible in part because scroggins does such a great job establishing context and bringing to life the vast web of personalities entwined within this story. i was hesitant when i picked this up because i was afraid that it would be emma's story first and sudan's second. emma merely provides a thread that runs through a much lar ...more
Jul 27, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ukraine. The author uses the life of the title character to exam the true impact of humanitarian aid organizations on the world's crises. Emma is a white, middle class, directionless woman who ends up finding 'herself' as an aid worker in Sudan. She is continually pulled by almost fanatic urges to do 'good' in the world, but often confused as to how she should enact this change. The helplessness of the Sudan crisis is overwhelming next ...more
Jun 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
423 pages about the warring tribes in The Sudan. Most of the book was the history of the Islamic North vs the Christians and tribes of the South. Fascinating but hard to take all in in one reading because of so much history and so many tribes and areas in Sudan. It was also about a young Englishwoman, working for the U.N.who falls in love and marries one of the tribal leaders of the South. Because the book was written by an Atlanta based reporter, it was somewhat balanced and no one came out loo ...more
Apr 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-world
Unforgettable book. The author has written a fascinating biography of a young English aid worker, doomed by her passion for Africa. Has used this life story as the framework for an emotionally gripping, detailed history of the Sudanese Civil War. And has used it also to illuminate the inadequacy of Western assistance, its problematic complicity in evil, in providing food and medical aid to the Sudanese. The author takes the reader on a horrendous journey through hell. Any reader making this jour ...more
Jan 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! This was an amazing analysis and exploration of the civil war, tribal wars, and the aid industry's influence-responsibility on the actions of war and government leaders in Sudan. The book could have been a dull recap of the South's struggle for independence, sovereignty,or whatever else people were (are) fighting for (like cows, slaves, oil, ....), but instead Scroggins uses the Emma's life as the backdrop to unfold the story. Even if you are not a fan (poor choice of words) of Sudan, this ...more
Oct 25, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book taught me a lot about the recent conflicts in the Sudan, for which I am grateful. The author, who spent time reporting in Sudan and actually met Emma, throws her opinions too much into the story - her own infatuation with Emma's beauty and her criticism of most all the aid workers were especially bothersome to me. The real story is the Sudan, not some head-in-the-clouds English woman whose initial seemingly good intentions to help kids in the Sudan soon became overshadowed by her lust ...more
Sep 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book. I loved the way the author wove her own journalistic experience in Sudan with Sudan's history and Emma's life story. A reality check about the politics of war, famine, oil, and foreign aid in the horn of Africa.
Caitlin Brady
What a disaster of a woman. Absolutely no self awareness. A well written book, but I can't say I enjoyed it.
Jul 27, 2010 is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
REALLY enjoying the historical, political and geographical parts of this book.
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The true story of a young British woman who gets involved in aid work and ends up in southern Sudan married to a local warlord. Hmm.

The book includes some history of the conflict in Sudan, which seems to me a good thing – it puts the news articles and ‘starving child’ TV ads in at least a little bit of perspective. Not that starving children need perspective, but me, I need perspective. After all, the UN and NGO capital of East Africa would be Nairobi, and I’ve been there. The southern Sudan con
Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship
Interesting book - uses the biography of a young British woman who travels to South Sudan as a aid worker and then marries a warlord as a lens for the history of Sudan in the 1980s and 90s. While the choice of protagonist is cynical, or at least western-centric, the author's research and interviews are clearly extensive; the book digs into Sudanese politics and personalities, who aren't just there as a backdrop for western adventures. Because much of the history is complicated, the chapters focu ...more
Jun 30, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not an easy read but informative about the civil war in Sudan. The author uses the life of Emma McCune a British relief worker to tell the disturbing historical and political story.
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: any interested in east african politics and humanitarian workers
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Nicholas Whyte
"[return][return]Emma McCune was the daughter of colonial parents, kicked out of India in the 1960s. They split up and her father committed suicide; Emma grew up with that missionary zeal which one sometimes encounters, to make the world a better place regardless of the personal consequences. [return][return]A lot of Scroggins' narrative isn't actually about Emma McCune, but about the horrors of the Sudanese conflict and the ensuing famine, which ...more
Bob Schmitz
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Emma’s war is the story of the civil war in Southern Sudan told through the vehicle of following a British aid worker, Emma McCune, who married a rebel commander, Riek Machar. The book describes the history of Sudan from the time of Gordon to the post 2011 world focusing on the late 1980’s and early ‘90s. What a mess.

When the British were driven out of Sudan by the Mahdi Northern Sudan was mostly Arab while the south was black African Christian and animist. In natural resources the north is poor
This was a fascinating and well-written history of Sudan. Although much of the book (including the title) are about the life of Emma McCune, a British aid worker who married a South Sudanese rebel leader and the political climate of Sudan during the period of Emma’s involvement, Emma is actually much more of a supporting character in the book than its main subject. I appreciated this angle because Emma’s life and entanglements put the conflict in context but were overall a mere misguided drop in ...more
I found value in this book for its reportage from the horn of Africa in the 80’s and early 90’s. I was also interested in reading the author’s perspective of the Sudanese civil wars, as there isn’t that much out there on the topic that is easily digestible. Scroggins does a good job of explaining some of the geo-political and ethnic dimensions that led to strife in the country. I appreciated her examination of the events surrounding the oil finds, the practice of Arab slavery over the blacks, th ...more
In Emma's War, Scroggins -- a journalist with years of experience covering the Sudan, Somalia, and other parts of Africa -- sets out to tell the story of Emma McCune, an aid-worker-turned-warlord's wife.

What makes the book so interesting is twofold: first, Scroggins covers a tremendous amount of politics as well as biography; second, while McCune is an obvious focus of the book, she is not necessarily a heroine. I have reservations on both of these scores, but they make the book undeniably more
May 04, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 14, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in Sudan's politics or African relief work
Scroggins weaves the story of Emma McCune (a lovely idealistic British national who came to Sudan as a relief worker), her own extensive experience as a journalist in northeastern Africa, and the history of Sudan to illustrate the West's failure to effect change in Sudan and other parts of Africa. Multiple Western governments, past and present, lacked an appreciation for the complexities of the region's politics, and of course Greed made an appearance or two. Scroggins' premise is that the vario ...more
Ubah Khasimuddin
I read this for book club and I was so excited to talk about it but something came up and couldn't make the club meeting.
This is a fantastic book not only about this aid worker turned warlord's wife, but about the more modern history of Sudan, particularly southern Sudan. The author writes in simple language so even the lay person can understand the way that part of the world works and has worked.
What I took away from this book primarily was that what we think of as a modern day occurrence of
Aug 23, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There are three facets to Deborah Scoggin's book: her own experience as a reporter in the Sudan (and later Somalia), a history of the long-term civil wr in the Sudan particularly in the 1980s and 1990s, and a biography of British aid worker Emma McCune, who married Sudanese rebel warlord Riek Machar and became his political partner in the ongoing civil war. While I found the book quite interesting, each facet has its problems. The history is very dense, full of detail and agency acronyms (there ...more
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American writer and journalist, author of Emma's war: An Aid Worker, Radical Islam and the Politics of Oil - A True Story of Love and Death in the Sudan.
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