Monday, January 07, 2008

Book review: A Mighty Heart

Marian Jane Williams reviews A Mighty Heart: The brave life and death of my husband Daniel Pearl by Mariane Pearl published by Virago, £10.99

Although I knew from the outset that Daniel Pearl was murdered, this did not detract in any way from the tension and empathy I felt towards Mariane Pearl as she travels through a time of utter horror in her life – the kidnap, search for and death of her husband. Mariane faced what many families and friends have faced – the knowledge that a loved one is in mortal danger, held by fanatics, and utter bewilderment as to why.

Daniel Pearl was an international journalist who passionately believed in unearthing the truth, believing that doing so would make for a more informed public and, therefore, a better world. He was the South Asia bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal and was in Karachi, Pakistan with Mariane at the time of his kidnap, staying with his friend and colleague Asra – an Indian born Muslim woman who was raised in West Virginia and who became Mariane’s closest friend and invaluable support through the subsequent trials. Shortly after arriving in Pakistan, Danny leaves to meet a contact one day and never returns.

Mariane Pearl writes with extraordinary, cool clarity of the ensuing days and nights which followed his disappearance. With the organisational skills of her friend Asra they searched for the reasons why he was singled out for kidnapping; why he was in Karachi; what his views on international journalism were and which of his contacts and fixers were involved. The search involved asking every question and following every clue into the labyrinth that is the world of fanaticism and terror. Among those whom the women enlisted in the search were the Pakistani police, Pakistani Intelligence, the FBI, the world media and her husband’s employers and friends.

At times the sheer numbers of people involved in the search or possibly involved in the kidnap, make for quite complicated reading. Trying to absorb and remember the different names and where they fit into the puzzle can be distracting, but this is a compelling story told with candour and a heart-wrenching emotional honesty.

Mariane is herself a remarkable journalist and she writes a very personal and moving tribute to the man she loves. Although her situation was horrifying, frightening and extremely emotional, her journalistic skills coupled with her own unbelievable determination, the iron grip on her emotions, and her constant hope, provide a fascinating and deeply felt account of that time in her life. Here is an admirable woman who, with a handful of equally determined and compassionate helpers, is a shining example of the power of the human spirit to transcend horror. Her love for her husband, her determination to use all in her power to rescue him and find answers to the many questions surrounding his disappearance and above all, the closeness of spirit and mutual strength which obviously existed between the two of them is the beating heart of this remarkable tale.

No comments: