Monday, August 13, 2012
Review of Guests of the Ayatollah by Mark Bowden
I’ve been on a major Iran kick this summer for some reason.
Guests of the Ayatollah is a fairly lengthy 650-700 page look at the Iranian hostage crisis. Perhaps due to Bowden’s background as a former sports reporter in Baltimore, the text is fairly easy to read and actually reads like a lengthy novel.
Bowden tries to tackle the crisis from all sides: the Iranian hostage takers, the embassy hostages, the President and his key advisors, the military role in the ill-fated rescue operation, and even the reaction of the American public as we move towards the 1980 election and beyond.
Much of the book is spent inside the embassy through the collective recollections of the hostages however. Overall, I thought Bowden struck a pretty good balance between all these different narratives, but individual opinions will vary of course.
When you’re trying to string together as many different perspectives as exist in the Iranian hostage crisis, the reader is bound to be left wanting in one area or another. I thought Bowden did a fantastic job capturing the dynamics between the hostages themselves, rather than merely bouncing them off their Iranian captors.
Would make an interesting companion piece to the new David Crist book The Twilight War, which provides a comprehensive treatment of U.S.-Iran relations from 1979-2011