I recently stumbled on to this website called “Bookshots with Caroline Baum” where Australian journalist, broadcaster, and presenter Caroline Baum features her interviews with Australian authors. The interview with Denise Leith on her new book, What Remains caught my attention as I had just finished the book and it was very interesting to hear the author’s thoughts.
I found What Remains very confronting but just couldn’t put it down. The story starts in 1991 when we meet new journalist, Kate Price who has been sent by her newspaper to cover human interest stories of the people of Ridjha during the Gulf War. In order to get out to see the real war she enlists the help of experienced freelance photographers Pete and John and ends up covering the bombing of the infamous Highway of Death.
As the years pass the three become friends, meeting up in the war zones, exchanging news and sharing experiences. The reader is taken to Bosnia, Rwanda, Chechnya, and Baghdad, and immersed not only in the futility of war but the human side that tells the story of the people living through it including the effect that covering each war has on the three friends – normalising the violent world in which they live most of their lives and making the homes that they go back to hard to call home. The attraction between Pete and Kate grows during the book but each time falters in the face of the misery around them.
Denise mentions in the “Bookshots” interview, that in a fictionalised account, the author can make us feel the emotions of war as individual incidents are drawn out rather than concentrating on the political aspects which the broad coverage provided by newspapers focusses on. I was certainly affected by the writing and was astonished to realise just how immune I had become to the reporting of conflicts when there seemed to be a different one in the paper every day. This book raised questions in my mind about the way I emotionally dealt with war, and how complacent I feel living here in Australia.