Reading Group 1 Book Review – Jul 23 – A Long Walk Home by Judith Tebbitt

A Long Walk Home: One Woman's Story of Kidnap, Hostage, Loss - and Survival by [Judith Tebbutt]In September 2011 Judith Tebbutt and her husband David set out on an adventurous holiday to Kenya. A couple for thirty-three years, they had first met in Zambia: Africa had played a major part in their life together. After a joyous week on safari in the Masai Mara, they flew on to a beach resort forty kilometres south of Somalia. And there, in the early hours of 11 September, tragedy struck them.
Judith was torn away from David by a band of armed pirates, dragged over sea and land to a village in the arid heart of lawless Somalia, and there held hostage in a squalid room, a ransom on her head. There, too, she learned the terrible truth that the responsibility of securing her release now rested with her son Ollie.
But though she was isolated, intimidated and near-starved, Judith resolved to survive – walking endless circuits of her nine-foot prison, trying to make her captors see her as a human being, keeping her faith at all times in Ollie.
Powerful, moving and at times quite devastating, this is Judith Tebbutt’s story in her own words. It is a memoir of the life she shared with her beloved husband, an unflinching account of the ordeal that overturned her world, and a testament to the inner resilience and familial love that sustained her through captivity.

Member Reviews:

A – An interesting book but I’m afraid one I didn’t particularly enjoy. The story was awful of course and make it difficult to imagine how one would feel/cope in such a situation. The authors resilience and mental attitude was remarkable which shows how the human spirit can respond to dire events.
However overall I found it failed to draw me in.

J – The book tells the story of a trip to Kenya at a time when Somali pirates were active in the seas around the coast of Africa. Judith tells of her adventurous plans for a trip of a lifetime to Kenya starting with a highly anticipated safari and culminating at a secluded beach resort which went very wrong and would then turn her world upside down very quickly. The background to her and husband, David’s life was interesting and even included a local link to Enham Trust during their married life.

The book was quite well written and showed the author’s resilience through whatever was thrown at her following her capture and then her determination to survive at whatever cost. She tried to build relationships with her captors and to some extent this worked in her favour. Towards the end of the story I did feel that the scenarios were being repeated and skipped over these. I could imagine that such an ordeal would have a lasting impact not least of which was the effect of a meagre diet.

S – Yet another excellent book and one I wouldn’t have chosen to read.  It is a  remarkable story of a remarkable woman, Judith Tebbutt, kidnapped by Somali pirates while holidaying in Kenya and only discovering about her husband’s murder at their hands some weeks into her harrowing ordeal.   I’m sure  her training and work as a social worker undoubtedly contributed to her resilience and ability to make the best use of the meagre opportunities she had to try and improve her situation.  While reading the book I kept thinking how would I act in her situation, and in reality I don’t think I would be that strong, and hopefully I will never be in that situation as I’m not that adventurous!

For six months she lived in absolute fear.  The lack of any form of hygiene, clean clothes and lack of food  was appalling.    Her detailed descriptions of the ordeal makes harrowing reading, but it is the way in which she manages her relationships with her captors which brings her account alive. By telling us in great detail about her earlier life, from a deprived early childhood, through maturity and a very happy marriage (even living and working in Andover) and becoming a senior social worker dealing with clients with serious mental conditions, she gave an insight into her inner self and how she managed to cope with her grim circumstances. Even once she was home it wasn’t easy mentally or physically for her to rebuild her life.   Also, what I found interesting was the shoe prints later discovered in the sand suggesting that the pirates did not head directly to their Banda but to Banda 7 where another couple had been staying but had moved next door  to number 8.  Consequently, the pirates headed off in the opposite direction down to Judith and David’s Banda.  If the couple hadn’t moved would Judith and David been saved?

All in all,  I think this was a very well written book by one truly amazing woman and has made me think about where we  go on holiday in future.

The book is also a wonderful tribute to Mrs Tebbutt’s son Ollie who, while only in his twenties, dealt with negotiations for her release and the murder of his father with maturity and sensitivity.

Posted in Reading Group 1.