Book Review The Kindness of Strangers Kate Adie

I have long been fascinated by war reporting and war correspondent has always been one of my secret fantasy jobs so I was excited to see this for a bargain price. It is out of date now but I felt sure it would be worth reading.

Less of an autobiography and more a series of anecdotes Kate’s career is charted from early days on regional radio in the 60s to BBC TV’s chief war correspondent with a ring side seat at such events as Tianemen Square and the Bosnian War. The early days of journalism sound like tremendous fun with a range of interesting characters, bizarre stories and everyone seeming to be permanently drunk. Later the tone is more serious as the indignities of reporting on the world’s disasters are covered.

Kate comes across as what she us: a nice middle class English girl, a bit jolly hockey sticks, no-nonsense, one of the boys, not a deep thinker. Probably ideal material for the rough and tumble of war correspondence methinks.

The book was enjoyable but not brilliant. The writing is average and there is little insight into world events. The tone is at times cold. Kate has all the prejudices of her class. British army officers are spoken of in glowing terms, all pink cheeks and blonde curls whereas women come in for some vicious treatment; “peroxide Valkyries” being one memorable phrase. She seems to have a thing about working class women who dare to dye their hair blonde. The descriptions of Northern Irish Catholic women during the Troubles are cruel and snobbish. This almost put me off finishing the book. There is much to admire in Kate’s professional life but we learn little of her personal one. A series of casual boyfriends are mentioned but we do not learn their names or anything about them.

This is worth a look but ultimately disappointing.

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