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  • Published: 1 July 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099520986
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $29.99

The Secret Life of War

Journeys Through Modern Conflict

A potential classic. A defining book about the experience of conflict, for those living through it and those reporting it, distilled from a decade and a half on the world's frontlines.

Once it was simple to write about war. States or ideologies clashed; battles were fought between national armies or movements. But war has changed.

War has become ‘privatised’ by small armed groups, states have fragmented and the conventional arms of the United States, the world’s last superpower, have been defeated by warlordism. Drawing on the author’s experiences as the Observer’s chief foreign correspondent, The Secret Life of War focusses on the human cost of war, in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, the Occupied Territories and elsewhere: to the combatants, to civilians and to the author, as one who bears witness.

Every encounter is arresting: a visit to the bombed and abandoned home of Mullah Omar; a deserted Al Qaeda camp where Beaumont discovers documents describing a plan to bomb London; young bomb-throwers in Rafah refugee camp. But what marks out The Secret Life of War from innumerable other accounts is the sum it makes of these parts: a lasting catalogue of fear and harm

  • Published: 1 July 2010
  • ISBN: 9780099520986
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288
  • RRP: $29.99

About the author

Peter Beaumont

Peter Beaumont is foreign affairs editor at the Observer. He has reported extensively from conflict zones including Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East, and has written widely on human rights issues and the impact of conflict on civilians. The winner of the George Orwell Prize for his reports from Iraq. He is the author of The Secret Life of War: Journeys Through Modern Conflict.

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Praise for The Secret Life of War

A compelling... brilliant... deeply perceptive work drawn from nearly two decades of experience reporting conflict

The Times

Magnificent - this book should be required reading


Beaumont's account of war reporting in the Middle East is astonishing, not least for its careful detail and his self-searching honesty. A superb piece of work


Beaumont's book is on a different plane to the others and will outlast many of them

Sunday Times

The Secret Life of War is an awesome read, the best enquiry into killing and suffering I've encountered. A plea for resolution, a document of brutal honesty, the bare truth: in it beats the pulse of being there in the throes of modern conflict

Tim Page

A superb writer

Neal Ascherson, New York Review of Books

Beaumont is fluid and elegant in his description of war and its symptoms

Sam Kiley, Evening Standard

Beaumont is a compassionate companion in this grim world of inverted values, who is prepared to reveal his own psychological damage as he sets about dismantling the myths of war and violence and laying out their formidable human cost

Siobhan Murphy, Metro

Beaumont writes beautifully and calmly, even when describing the fiercest and most emotive moments of war

Janine di Giovanni, Observer

Modern war is all about complexity and uncertainty, and in his accounts of his journeys through conflict, Beaumont certainly evokes this... Beaumont is evidently a brave and determined reporter

Literary Review

excellent memoir... The Secret Life of War is readable and insightful on the often horrendous things Beaumont has seen... He gets us to the core of conflict with ruthless single-mindedness. Beaumont is clearly not the type who spends his day talking to generals or hanging around secure army bases. Instead, he conveys the bloody chaos of the war zone in its stark and grim reality... Above all, Beaumont is refreshingly self-deprecating about his role as a reporter, both honest and realistic.

James Blitz, Financial Times

Beaumont reaches beyond his peers to a wider readership' and uses 'his calmness, frankness, self-depreciation and sense of wonder in examining the raw emotions which fuel conflicts

Kim Sengupta, The Independent

The author succeeds magnificently - to such an extent that this book should be required reading for every student of international affairs, every enthusiastic armchair strategist and every aspiring entrant to the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst

Hugh O'Shaugnessy, Tribune

With honesty and humility he diagnoses his own need to return to war the way a junkie feeds on heroin...It is a book from the heart, not a military analysis...one realises the book was a catharsis, a way for him to write his way out of the blackness. You close it and wish him peace

Janine de Giovanni, Observer

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