Picks and Pans Review: The Covenant: Love and Death in Beirut
by Barbara Newman with Barbara Rogan
This is Newman, a tough American TV producer, talking about Bashir Gemayel, a rising Lebanese politician: "I went all weak-kneed and girlish at the sound of his voice, like the heroine of a book I would have scorned." Her book, the story of her romance with Gemayel and her investigation into his death, at times comes awfully close to Danielle Steel prose ("beneath his robe his body was heavily muscled"). But it is not to be scorned. Her story combines romance, adventure and investigative reporting. What's more, it's a primer on recent Middle Eastern politics and warfare.
Newman, then 36, Jewish, twice divorced and, she says, "nobody's fool," went to Lebanon in 1980 to do a piece on terrorism for ABC's 20/20. There she met the charismatic Gemayel, then 32 and married. A member of a Lebanese Christian family, he was determined to unite his country's various factions. Sparks flew between them, but, good journalist that she was, Newman waited until her story aired before bedding down with Gemayel.
For two years they pursued a sporadic affair (mostly, he was in Beirut and she in Washington, D.C.). Then, just after Gemayel was elected Lebanon's President in 1982, a bomb blast killed him. Newman was devastated but investigated his death while on assignment for a London TV station. She determined to her satisfaction that his death was engineered by Elie Hobeika, Gemayel's chief of security. Hobeika, Newman says, acted on behalf of Syria, which desired instability in Lebanon.
Newman and co-writer Rogan offer a no-frills (except for the love stuff) narrative. "Loving him cost me everything. I jeopardized my job, my daughter's peace of mind, even my life for Bashir; and in the end I lost him," Newman says, but adds, "I regret nothing." The woman is tough. (Crown, $18.95)
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