Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for No Ordinary Assignment:
Safety? Sounds boring.
The story of war journalist, Jane Ferguson.
Fact for Non-History People:
Sana’a, Yemen, is believed to be the one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world.
Fact for History Nerds:
The Somali language wasn’t formally written down until the 1970s.
My Take on No Ordinary Assignment:
Memoirs can be the trickiest of non-fiction categories to write. Write something which is too meek, and you may sound like a phony. Write something too boastful and you sound arrogant. Then, the challenge of how to tell stories which sometime don’t connect perfectly into a cohesive whole. Jane Ferguson’s No Ordinary Assignment masterfully avoids all these pitfalls by being honest and insightful while recognizing just how insane some of these experiences are.
I can’t think of many books whose first chapters are so amazingly told. Jane’s examination of her youth in Northern Ireland during the Troubles sets the tone perfectly. Jane reveals herself as someone who knows where her drive and quirks come from. When chapter one finished, I thought, “I know why this person would go on to do what she does.” The last chapter about the fall of Kabul could probably be its own book. It is the culmination of all the chapters before and a fitting finish to this memoir even though Jane has a lot more life to live.
The chapters between these bookends (pun intended!) are uniformly excellent. The key for me is Jane’s view of herself. She sees her (sometimes imagined) shortcomings and isn’t afraid to point them out and own them. Conversely, she is not so humble as to deny that it takes real courage to do what she did. It’s a must read.
(This book was provided as an advance copy by Netgalley and Mariner Books.)
A fantastic book for all audiences. Buy it here!