What in the end movingly comes across from Martell’s accurate analysis, description and storytelling is his love for the South Sudanese people. As for all those who visit or work in the country, these are not faces in a crowd: they are people who actually live there, who, like everywhere else, want a job, want to look after their families, educate their sons and daughters, contribute to society, and enjoy themselves.
Martell, a BBC reporter based in Juba, the new country’s capital, was there to witness the optimism and joy that greeted independence. His experience, gained over years of living in and reporting on the country, is invaluable and notably absent from many other accounts.
Historical narrative and careful analysis are thus mixed with interviews with individuals chosen to illustrate the broader story. Each draws a new portrait. Martell is a sympathetic and sensitive listener and his writing powerful and moving. We hear the voices of those who have fought, fled, struggled, hoped and suffered; we see both the celebrations and the skeletons.