Sunday, July 16, 2006

Book Review: War Hospital

Another book review (yay!)

I cannot recommend Sheri Fink's "War Hospital" enough. Like "Postcards From the Grave" this book discusses the siege and massacre in Srebrenica, Bosnia. While Suljagic's book was a highly personal account of life in the enclave, Fink's book is more expansive, but just as well written.

Fink focuses on the lives of several doctors within the enclave:

Nedret , a charismatic and hot tempered young doctor from Tuzla, who becomes a national hero and a bit of an international sensation after he risks his life to go to Srebrenica to perform thousands of surgeries in the most primitive conditions imaginable.

Ilijaz , a quiet man, who becomes a figure of respect and authority in the town as he spends 3 years performing operations.

Ejub an affable and sweet natured pediatritan.

Fatima , who is in charge of the OB/GYN section of the hospital.

Boro, A Bosnian-Serb Army doctor, who is good friends with Nedret and Fatima, and who helps treats Bosniaks and Serbs alike.

Eric, An idealistic doctor from MSF.

What makes this book so worth reading is that an indebted look at a group of doctors who are working under unimaginable conditions. She does not lionize them, but fully shows their complexities and contradictions. Although it may sound cliche-by seeing the war through the eyes of these doctors, the war becomes less an obscure event that happened to "other people." Instead, we are able to identify with the doctors.

Just for that, War Hospital would be worth reading, what makes the book essential is that Fink also deals with complex ethical questions.

Such as: what role should international humanitarian aid organizations play in a conflict?
Is military force sometimes required to stop a massacre?
Should doctors be allowed to take up arms?

Fink does not shy away from these difficult questions, and her book is a well written account of the human cost of these highly charged medical/political/ethical issues.

While I think the book is excellent-I do have one problem with it. Personally, I would have liked the book to focus more on Dr. Fatima. Of all of the main characters, she is the one who is mentioned the least. In fact, most of her time in the book is in the context of her on again/off again relationship with Dr. Illogic.
As a doctor (and therefore an authority figure) in an enclave where the vast majority of the authortities are men-it would have been interesting to get more of an in depth look at her perception of Srebrenica and its many highly controversial leaders and war lords.

Nevertheless, whether you are a student of Balkan History or someone who interested in medical-journalism, Sheri Fink's "War Hospital" in book of the highest caliber.

Originally posted on I am over my head;
comments originally from I am over my head;

At 1:21 PM, Srebrenica Massacre said...

I would like to thank you for giving constructive opinion at Srebrenica Genocide Blog. All your opinions were approved and published. Thank you!

At 4:47 AM, Owen said...
Thanks, another good review. Sounds worht getting hold of.

At 9:24 AM, Kirk Johnson said...
I will check out this book soon--I actually purchased a copy some time ago, I just haven't got around to reading it yet. Your review has inspired me to move it to the top of my "To Read" list.

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