Voice from the inferno

<strong>Baghdad Burning (volume 2)</strong>

Riverbend <em>Marion Boyars, 320pp, £7.99</em>


"Riverbend", the pseudonym of the now world-famous Iraqi blogger, is a voice of reason in a sea of chaos. "You have two choices," the 28-year-old remarks: "take a Valium, or start a blog."

Her voice is particularly powerful when she is grappling with what she perceives as the indifference of the world. "WHERE IS EVERYONE???" she types after a particularly ferocious bombing of a neighbouring city, and later despairs at a neighbour's apathy towards upcoming elections. She ably captures the mood of a country pulled in too many different directions, robbed of an identity and trapped by a perception the world has imposed upon it. Her observations are always bold and often surprising: "I hate suicide bombers. I hate the way my heart beats chaotically every time I pass a suspicious-looking car. But I completely understand how people get there."

While she can reel off statistics at dizzying speed, it is the warmth and personality of her blogs that have earned her her fans. She elicits our sympathy without ever demanding it – so much so that when she baldly relates the death of her friend, it is what she doesn't say that stays with us. What could so easily stray into the sentimental is always taut, direct and ultimately heartbreaking.

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