Kim Ghattas has not only drawn the big picture of how those events shaped the region but offers timely and thought-provoking insights into their continuing destructive influence. The weaponisation of sectarianism, women’s rights, the frustrated hopes of the Arab spring, the rise of Al-Qaida and Islamic State are all richly contextualised and illustrated ... Ghattas spent a successful career as a journalist for the BBC. It shows in her wonderfully readable account. Intellectuals, clerics and novelists are highlighted because they represent ideas and suffering in the face of repressive regimes and intolerant ideologies ... Ghattas has an enviable gift for going beyond politics. Arabic dialects, the music of the Egyptian diva Umm Kulthum, Beirut restaurants serving caviar during ceasefires and witty anecdotes about Hezbollah all serve as a backdrop ... Whatever happens next in this long-running, oppressive and dangerous Middle Eastern drama, Black Wave will be a vivid, indispensable guide to the story so far.
...[a] sweeping and authoritative history ... Ghattas’s narrative upends this Western misconception. Instead of feuding over theology, Ghattas shows, Saudi Arabia and Iran transformed latent religious divisions into weapons wielded in the pursuit of political power ... Ghattas tells many of these stories through the eyes of myriad individual men and often women who spoke out in one way or another against the post-1979 conservative turn in the region.
The book is packed with accounts of ambition, treachery and cruelty—with a wealth of historical detail down to the hour of the day ... She serves up a wealth of human interest wrapped in ambiance and atmosphere. She paints riveting portraits of the protagonists: the murderous zealots, and the reformers who preached moderation until they were exiled or murdered ... a superbly researched and subtly told story—current history at its best. 'Between despair and hope,' Ms. Ghattas writes, 'I ultimately settled on hope.' This blood-drenched plot deserves it. So, 'Amen' and 'Inshallah.'