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BookBrowse Reviews The Prisoner of Guantanamo by Dan Fesperman

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The Prisoner of Guantanamo

by Dan Fesperman

The Prisoner of Guantanamo by Dan Fesperman X
The Prisoner of Guantanamo by Dan Fesperman
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2006, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Jul 2007, 336 pages

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An intricately layered, blistering tale of subterfuge and deception

Previously Fesperman, a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, has taken us to Yugoslavia (Small Boat of Great Sorrows and Lie In The Dark) and to Afghanistan (The Warlord's Son). Now he takes us into another place most of us would rather avoid - the US military base at Guantánamo Bay where Cuban-American politics and the "War on Terror" come head to head. The line between what is a thriller and what is not is a little fuzzy, but I do know that some readers of this ezine tend to skim over books billed as thrillers, so let me classify this as a very good novel with some exciting bits! This is not being disingenuous, it really is the best description - although there are pulse-pounding moments, a lot of the intervening action moves slowly and with a level of detail that would likely frustrate thriller purists.

Fesperman does a superb job of explaining the inner workings at Guantánamo, as well as the context for the public outcry about the base. However, one critic was frustrated that The Prisoner of Guantánamo "stops short at the doors to the cells", leaving it unclear whether (in the realms of what we must remember is a work of fiction) deliberate and systemic physical abuse of prisoners is going on or not. If Falk, Fesperman's protagonist, was asked this question directly, his answer would likely be yes in some cases, but not across the board.

Fesperman positions Falk as being uncomfortable with the treatment of some prisoners but not to the point where he's sticking his neck out to do something about it - in other words, Falk is a surprisingly believable character and not a front to preach a particular point of view.

What does come across loud and viscerally clear is the all encompassing presence of the US military, controlling every aspect of the base, and the people's lives therein, irrespective of which side of the bars they happen to be.

"I visited Guantánamo and Camp Delta .... and the setting just knocked me over with all its exotic and bizarre touches, as well as with its overwhelming sense of claustrophobia and besiegement." - Dan Fesperman.

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in August 2006, and has been updated for the July 2007 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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Beyond the Book:
  Cuba and Guantánamo Bay

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