Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A review of The Price of Life by Nigel Brennan, Kellie Brennan, and Nicole Bonney...

Ordinarily, I would review this book on Epinions.com, but at the moment, there is no reviewable entry for The Price of Life  there.  So I will review it on my blog… and it will probably get more hits here anyway.

The Price of Life (2011) is a book that was written by Nigel Brennan, his sister, Nicole Bonney, and his sister-in-law, Kellie Brennan.  It's about Brennan's abduction in Somalia back in August 2008.  I recently read and reviewed Amanda Lindhout's book, A House In The Sky, which was her side of the same story.  Amanda Lindhout is Canadian and Nigel Brennan is Australian.

They were both photojournalists and originally met in Ethiopia in 2006 and had an affair while Nigel was still married to his English wife, Janie.  Nigel and Janie eventually divorced and Nigel took up with a Scottish woman named A.J., who worked as a chef off the west coast of Scotland.  Nigel was feeling restless, so when Amanda invited him to join her in Iraq, he gave it serious consideration.  But travel to Iraq proved to be too expensive and risky, so Nigel ended up passing on going to Iraq.

Some time later, Amanda asked Nigel if he'd like to visit Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia.  Nigel wasn't so worried about Kenya and Ethiopia, since those two countries had some semblance of a government. Somalia, on the other hand, was another story.  Nevertheless, somehow Nigel was eventually convinced that visiting Somalia was both doable and a good idea.  They basically falsified documents that identified them as members of the press who had been invited to the country to work with a larger news organization.

On their third day in Somalia, August 23, 2008, Amanda and Nigel were kidnapped by a group of teenaged insurgents who then demanded a ransom of $3 million.  Nigel's book, which was published two years before Amanda Lindhout's side of the story, is told from three different perspectives: Nigel's, his sister's, and his sister-in law's.

While this book is basically the same story as Amanda Lindhout's, I think I enjoyed it much more than I did her book.  I enjoyed the Aussie sense of humor that is prevalent in this book.  You'd think a book about being kidnapped and brutalized in Somalia would be short on comic relief, but I actually found Nigel and his sister and sister-in-law to be entertaining writers who use profanity and Aussie slang liberally.  It added a certain authenticity to the book and gave it an interesting flavor.

Nigel also didn't endure quite what Amanda Lindhout did.  He was not gang raped or tortured as she was, so I found his book less traumatizing to read… even though Nigel did hear Amanda being brutalized and does describe what that was like for him.  Nigel and Amanda were held for over 460 days, so there were many days when Nigel was just plain bored.  Meanwhile, his large, close knit family in Australia was going crazy, pining for his release as they frantically raised money to pay the ransom for Amanda and Nigel.

I did find Nigel's book interesting because it discusses communications between Amanda's family and his family.  Things were pretty tense because Nigel's family raised most of the money to pay the ransom.  Amanda was also heard tearfully asking her mother to use what money was collected to pay for only her release.  Nigel quite chivalrously recognizes that Amanda's ordeal was literally more painful than his was.

One thing I found interesting was Nigel's description of using the toilet, which he does a couple of times.  I guess it's natural, since he's a guy.  Anyway, I thought his account was more "real" and somewhat more entertaining, if you can call a book about being held hostage "entertaining".  I would give it five stars and recommend it over Amanda's book, though both are worth reading.  


  1. While it's impossible NOT to conclude that Amanda suffered a great deal, and more so than did her co-captive, I'm not finding her very likable. She essentially got the two of them into the mess with her persuasion, falsifying of documents, desire for street cred, etc., and then when Nigel's side was coming up with most of the cash, to have told her mom to use the money raised on her behalf to secure ONLY her release does not paint her in a positive light. I understand she was in a nightmarish situation and that her half of the situation was worse than Nigel's, but still . . .

    I really need to read both books.

    1. Yeah, I understand your point. However, when I think about what it must have been like to be half-starved, bleeding, and in serious pain from dental abscesses, gang-rapes, and being reverse hogtied and gagged for days on end, my distaste for her behavior softens somewhat. It's easy to condemn her actions when you're not hungry, scared out your mind, and thoroughly violated. But I do understand why she doesn't come across as someone you'd immediately have sympathy for, since it was her idea to get into this mess in the first place.

      I give Nigel credit, though, because I'm sure it was hard for him to hear Amanda throwing him under the bus… and yet he even says that he can understand why she did what she did. He'd had to listen to her being beaten and raped and could do nothing to help her. Mostly, what I got from his book is that he felt like a complete invalid, not in charge of his life. Amanda, on the other hand, was not only an invalid, but was repeatedly used for sexual gratification.

      I agree, though, that she's not particularly likable. Frankly, neither is her mother, whom Nigel's family describes. They don't seem to be very cooperative or helpful in this situation. I hope you will read these books and let me know your thoughts.

  2. I am looking forward to Nigel's side of the story after just reading Amanda's. I can see how most people feel Amanda was the leader and instigator who persuaded Nigel to join her. Yet if we are honest, I think we can recall different times in life when we were pushing on someone to join us and when we felt pushed to do something. Either way we have to admit that we could have refused to go along with something that might lead to tragedy. Amanda as recklessly perky, as journalist Engels described her😜, is typical of the women I met traveling. They are happy and free and independent and unfraid. If they weren't, they never could be such successful world travelers. Amanda attributes her Wanderlust to the Narional Geographic magazines from the thrift store. I think it is something else because her brothers had no such impulse. I think as an amateur psychologist that her childhood poverty with a single Mom and the violent Native in the house made her long for escape in any direction. She dreamt herself up. Her cocktail tips came from her good looks and gave her confidence to go out in the world and try her luck and overcome her working class roots and miserable childhood. She was pushing back her past as fast as she could. Nigel had his own motivations for escape. Perhaps he just hated being tied down to anyone. Hence the run from his marriage and from the Scottish lover. I had some characteristics in common with Amanda when young, so I felt in my bones that she had to get out and fight for herself as a different person from her mother and her sad waitress life. But of course she didn't achieve it. Alas! The human condition is tough.

  3. Nigel is a grown man capable of making his own decisions. Blaming Amanda on his part and that of his family members is so very mean-spirited. They were both hostages but Amanda was victimized on a much larger scale than he, simply because she is a woman. And he less so because he is a man.


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