06 December 2018, The Tablet

A warts-and-all biography of reckless war correspondent Marie Colvin

A warts-and-all biography of reckless war correspondent Marie Colvin

Marie Colvin at the Brilliant Women/Modern Muses exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London
Photo: PA, Joel Ryan


In Extremis
Lindsey Hilsum
(Chatto &?Windus, 416 PP, £20)
Tablet bookshop price £18 • tel 020 7799 4064

To write an honest biography of a friend and colleague is never going to be easy. When the friend in question was Marie Colvin, the renowned war reporter killed in Syria in 2012 at the age of 56, the biographer’s task is daunting. Colvin was glamorous, driven, apparently fearless. Her stories from the front line of bloody conflict reached around the world. But her private life was chaotic and painful.

Lindsey Hilsum, the greatly respected ­foreign correspondent for Channel 4, who knew and occasionally worked alongside Colvin, is not daunted. In clear, calm prose, and making good use of private diaries and notebooks, she has written a study of her friend which, while giving her full credit for her courage and achievements, does not put her on a pedestal, and raises uncomfortable questions not just about her but about her profession and her employers. 

Colvin was a clever, rebellious girl from an Irish American family, brought up in respectable suburban Long Island in the 1970s, attending Mass on Sundays and arguing with her adored father about short skirts and boyfriends.

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