Monday, November 12, 2007

Book Review: Perfect Hostage by Justin Wintle

Aung San Suu Kyi came to represent the honourable struggle for democracy against dictatorship not only in her native Burma, but throughout the world. Even through years under house arrest, she continued to be the figurehead of resistance against the military regime in Burma. This book appears to be the story of her life, but is actually much more than a simple biography but at the same time it is not even as much as that.

The face of Aung San Suu Kyi is slightly disingenuously used to market a book which would more accurately be titled "The History of the Burmese Freedom Movement", but is none the less interesting for it. Author Justin Wintle takes the reader through the history of Burmese leadership from the pre-colonial kings, through British and Japanese occupation to the present ruling junta of generals. Aung San Suu Kyi's importance as a figurehead to the Burmese democracy movement is explained by highlighting the part her father played in the independence of the country and the author outlines the most important events in her life without ever going into much depth into her character.

Those hoping to gain an insight into Suu Kyi's personality and learn more about her life away from the democracy campaigning will be disappointed as this is a biography written by someone who has studied the life of Aung San Suu Kyi rather than someone who has had access to his subject. The author shouldn't be castigated too much for this as, of course, for many years it was virtually impossible for anyone to have access to her. Instead of the details of Suu Kyi's life, the reader is treated to a detailed and, at times, upsetting account of how the ruling junta has dealt with students, actors, ex-soldiers and every other type of political opponent with dramatic accounts of some key moments when she led face-offs with her military oppressors.

Whilst this is a comprehensive account of the facts and events that led up to her years under house arrest, the author would have done well to deal with the roles that other governments around the world have had in keeping the military junta in power whilst paying lip service to being against it. Readers should also be aware that this book was written before Aung San Suu Kyi's release and subsequent elections and the years through which she remained silent during her government's persecution of the Rohingya.

This book is thoroughly recommended to readers who have a little knowledge about Aung San Suu Kyi and the situation in Burma and wish to learn more but for those who expect a deep insight into her personal life I suspect this book will be a disappointment.
Score: 7.5/10

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