Amazon ‘Book of the Month’ for March 2018 (publication date)
New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
A New York Times Notable Book of 2018
A Financial Times Best Book of 2018
A CSM 2018 Best Nonfiction Title
Booklist Editors’ Choice for 2018
Finalist for 2019 Lionel Gelber Prize
Winner of the OPC’s Cornelius Ryan Award
Finalist for 2019 NYPL’s Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism
Shortlisted for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize
About No Turning Back: This astonishing book by the prize-winning journalist Rania Abouzeid tells the tragedy of the Syrian War through the dramatic stories of four young people seeking safety and freedom in a shattered country.
Extending back to the first demonstrations of 2011, No Turning Back dissects the tangle of ideologies and allegiances that make up the Syrian conflict. As protests ignited in Daraa, some citizens were brimming with a sense of possibility. A privileged young man named Suleiman posted videos of the protests online, full of hope for justice and democracy. A father of two named Mohammad, secretly radicalized and newly released from prison, saw a darker opportunity in the unrest. When violence broke out in Homs, a poet named Abu Azzam became an unlikely commander in a Free Syrian Army militia. The regime’s brutal response disrupted a family in Idlib province, where a nine-year-old girl opened the door to a military raid that caused her father to flee. As the bombings increased and roads grew more dangerous, these people’s lives intertwined in unexpected ways.
Rania Abouzeid brings readers deep inside Assad’s prisons, to covert meetings where foreign states and organizations manipulated the rebels, and to the highest levels of Islamic militancy and the formation of ISIS. Based on more than five years of clandestine reporting on the front lines, No Turning Back is an utterly engrossing human drama full of vivid, indelible characters that shows how hope can flourish even amid one of the twenty-first century’s greatest humanitarian disasters.
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'no turning back’ in the news
[A] book of dogged reporting. “Syria has ceased to exist as a unified state,” Abouzeid writes, but her book ensures that the stories of its people will endure.
On the radio - NPR, WNYC, and BBC
“Page after page of extraordinary reporting and many flashes of exquisitely descriptive prose. But it is the characters around whom the story is build who make the book unforgettable … The result is a tremendous sense of intimacy with the victims and the violence that surrounds them. Abouzeid’s remarkable journalistic and literary work has given us, at last, a book worthy of the enormous tragedy that is Syria.”
*SELECTED AS NEW YORK TIMES EDITORS' CHOICE
“Excellent … [P]robably the most perceptive journalistic account of the war so far, highlighting the individual stories while never losing sight of the broader situation and history …. Abouzeid’s understated bravery and ability to merge into the background speak to the power of immersive eyewitness reporting, foregrounding the experience of the people she meets and writing with modesty.”
“In recent years, there have been many books about Syria, but in terms of presenting through the eyes of participants and ordinary Syrians how the uprising unfolded and eventually turned into an armed revolt and then a complex mess, one can hardly do better than No Turning Back.”
- Hong Kong Free Press
"An extraordinary book on the human cost of the Syrian conflict. … [It] succeeds triumphantly because of the skill and sensitivity of Abouzeid's writing, the depth of her reporting and the extraordinary nature of the stories she tells. As a result, her book has the compelling qualities of a novel, rather than simply a work of reportage."
"A stunning take on Syria’s tragedy. … Abouzeid’s writing is clear, her analysis sharp, her sympathy deep. … The best book I have read on the descent of Syria into dark hell and humanitarian disaster. … Engrossing."
In Open Democracy - ’Reporting Syria: This is a story about people.’ An interview with Rania Abouzeid
In New Humanist magazine - ‘People cannot say they did not know what was happening’
For Herne Hill Welcomes Refugees, a south London community organization - Q&A with author Rania Abouzeid
"To this terrible story, Rania Abouzeid brings bravery, granular vision and stringent sympathy. … You just can't get border crossings, bribes, midnight journeys, disguises, bombing raids, and arrest warrants from a Twitter feed — only from the notebook of a real reporter. Yet there are no heroics here. The experience of Abouzeid's subjects is always more important than her own, a journalistic discipline as welcome as it is rare. No Turning Back won’t tell you what to think about Syria. It will tell you how to think about a war without end, with the humility and compassion Abouzeid's craft inspires."
“A wonderful book by Rania Abouzeid, who has been covering Syria for years. She wrote No Turning Back: Life, Loss, and Hope in Wartime Syria about her experience covering Syria, and it’s really devastating … I just think it’s a really great book. It’s not a pleasant story, but any time we have an opportunity to better understand that conflict and the devastation, I think we’re better for it.”
"You will not find an end to the seven-year Syrian civil war in this book. You will find extraordinary reporting from a fearless female journalist who has been covering the tragedy since it began, as well as unforgettable stories from survivors, relayed in Abouzeid's jarringly beautiful prose."
The fT: Summer books of 2018
"An extraordinary piece of reportage that explains the Syrian war through the stories of individuals caught up in the fighting. Abouzeid’s book has the gripping and tragic qualities of a first-rate novel."
"My book of the year is No Turning Back by Rania Abouzeid. - Gideon Rachman, FT Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent"
"An astonishing work, in its ambition, its scope and its humanity … These stories are woven with consummate skill by Abouzeid who does not moralize and does not judge. Through their lived experiences she has shown the human faces, the human suffering behind the headlines."
"Abouzeid expertly moves between succinct commentary on the context and the lives of a 'cast of characters' who anchor her narrative and humanize it. (Her) eye and ear for the telling detail, the pregnant anecdote, the overheard phone conversation are testimony to her narrative skills. The writing is searing and sparingly beautiful without ever trivializing the destruction and suffering."
No Turning Back
Selected by the International Institute for Strategic Studies as one of the 'best security and world affairs books this summer’ 2018
The Arab Weekly: Talking with Rania Abouzeid about ‘Loss and Hope in Wartime Syria’
No Turning Back is “a great gift for anyone who wants to understand what’s happening in Syria … This book centers on the people at the heart of the conflict and brings their experiences to life.”
“It’s the level of journalistic enterprise and gritty ground-level storytelling that sets apart No Turning Back from a thick stack of eyewitness books on the war in Syria. We leave it better informed but also better burdened for the human stories and the seemingly inhuman endurance of war-battered Syrians.”
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“Rania Abouzeid, who conducted life-threatening reporting to make the book happen, based “No Turning Back” on personal stories of those affected by the Syrian civil war. She gives voice to a handful of the millions of Syrians whose lives were tragically upended by war.”
Books We Couldn’t Put Down in 2018 - including No Turning Back, a “feat of war reporting” that brings “into focus a war that too often feels unclear.”
Great Books to Read in the Christmas Break - including No Turning Back
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The Ten Best Human Rights Books of 2018 - including No Turning Back
“No Turning Back is ‘a heart-rending, on-the-ground epic (written) with the same verve, sensibility, and poetry that’s always distinguished (Abouzeid’s) magazine writing. It’s a stunning achievement: the book I wish I could have written, if only I were as brave as her.”
No Turning Back “is an almost anthropological chronicle of the conflict … this diary of neighborhoods and lives turned upside down makes it explicitly clear why for Syrians there is no turning back.” - Asia Times
FINALIST for the Lionel Gelber Prize, a literary award for the world’s best non-fiction book on foreign affairs that seeks to deepen public debate on significant international issues
CITATION: Rania Abouzeid’s remarkable book is a powerful account of the everyday lives of Syrian protestors, killers and their victims. She draws on five years of clandestine reporting from Assad’s prisons, ISIS strongholds and rebel meetings. A deeply moving personal narrative, it highlights the dilemmas of different actors caught in a spiral of violence. NoTurning Back deserves a wide readership for the skill and sensitivity with which it renders intelligible the most shocking tragedy and humanitarian disaster of our times.
WINNER of the Cornelius Ryan Award for the best non-fiction book on international affairs
CITATION: No Turning Back is an extraordinary feat of reporting—a searing account of the lives of Syrians from all sides caught up in a catastrophic war. A fluent Arabic speaker, Abouzeid draws on her years of often dangerous reporting inside the conflict zone and the deep ties she has built up with people of all political and religious persuasions. This allows her to describe and explain in detail Syria’s tragic descent from the optimism of the first peaceful democratic uprisings in 2011 to the sectarian slaughter of civilians and brutal and misguided foreign interventions. Abouzeid spares nothing in describing the appalling torture and endless mass killings of civilians by the Assad regime. But her use of personal narratives and her fluid writing never let us lose track of the humanity of the Syrians suffering on all sides.
FINALIST for the 2019 Helen Bernstein Book Award for Excellence in Journalism
SPOTLIGHT: Abouzeid’s debut book is is a tremendously compelling read, at times devastating but impossible to put down. … No Turning Back is a masterful work, with Rania Abouzeid thoughtfully interweaving personal narratives, mapping for the reader exactly how one Syria unraveled, becoming multiple Syrias.
SHORTLISTED for the Royal Society of Literature’s Ondaatje Prize 2019, awarded to a book of the highest literary merit – fiction, non-fiction or poetry – which best evokes the spirit of a place
CITATION: Despite Syria being so much in the news, this striking, beautifully written book manages to highlight many threads that have often been ignored in favour of “covering the conflict” - those of peoples’ stories from all walks of Syrian life, deftly linked into the global political landscape across decades.