Philip Gourevitch is a great journalist and writer and his account of the Rwandan genocide provides much depth and context; I did learn a lot about a region of the world I knew little about beforehand. But for every bit made clear there were so many more frustrating mysteries presented; which gets anguishing. In the book's beginning I was able to follow Hutu violence against Tutsis in Rwanda, but then there were introduced RPFs, UNAMIR, Hundes, interahamwe, genocidaires and not only that, but many of these seemed to alternate who they were victimizing throughout the book. Compounding this confusion is a host of differing world aid organizations and political heads and groups who also have a hand in simultaneously supporting and victimizing Rwandans, both Tutsis and Hutus.
I was constantly side-tracked by insignificant minutiae like what's the difference between ethnically cleansing people and murdering them? Is there really that big a difference between a relief mission and a rescue mission in a situation this hellish? Why does somebody named Jean Girumuhatse have a son named Emanuel Habyarimana? (Habyarimana is the name of one of the depraved political leaders but he doesn't seem related to this Girumuhatse family... )
Even the format of this book was confusing to me, it's subtitled "Stories from Rwanda" but is not written as a series of separate stories, nor is it a straightforward chronological account, it kind of meanders back and forth. I wanted so badly to understand the situation but failed, and feel frustrated. And, so much of this book is about everybody failing to understand and feeling frustrated.
This was a good book, and extremely well researched. However, there was so much detail, and so much history that I got kind of overwhelmed. It told a lot of Paul's story, the one that Hotel Rowanda, the movie told. That was the best part of the book. The names were quite confusing and hard to read. All in all a good book if you like that sort of thing.