O'Donnell, Lynne

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O'Donnell, Lynne




Home—Hong Kong, China. E-mail—[email protected].


Journalist. Former reporter for the Australian and the Irish Times; Agence France-Presse, Hong Kong, China, Asian features editor.


High Tea in Mosul: The True Story of Two Englishwomen in War-Torn Iraq, Cyan Communications (London, England), 2007.


Lynne O'Donnell is an Australian journalist and foreign correspondent who has lived and worked all over the world. As the Asian features editor for Agence France-Presse, she currently resides in Hong Kong, China. Previously, assignments have taken her over much of Asia, including a period during the 1990s when she lived in Beijing and Shanghai and worked almost exclusively in the region for nearly a decade. She has also worked for a number of periodicals, including the Australian, for which she wrote on the war in Afghanistan. She has lived in Istanbul, too, while writing about the unrest and political situations in the Middle East for the Irish Times. In addition to her journalistic efforts, O'Donnell has written a book, High Tea in Mosul: The True Story of Two Englishwomen in War-Torn Iraq, which was released in 2007 by Cyan Communications.

High Tea in Mosul tells the story of Pauline and Margaret, two British women who moved to Iraq with their husbands, an Iraqi heart specialist and the man who would become the president of Mosul University, respectively, during the 1970s. The men had been living in England and attending school when they met their wives. The book discusses how the women adapted to the radically different way of life in Iraq, including the heat, the culture, the food, and the large, invasive families into which they had each married. However, along with this personal look into life in Iraq, O'Donnell includes the history of the nation during this period and how living conditions in Iraq altered over the next two decades, in great part due to the rise to power of Saddam Hussein. She addresses the invasions of Iran and Kuwait, as well as the way politics affected daily life. Censorship became an accepted part of life, international sanctions set in as a result of the invasions, and food became harder to come by as rationing became commonplace.

As Mosul became a target in 2003, the two British women found themselves listening for the sound of dropping bombs and the warning for air raids. Horrors took place in the streets. The result is a book that interweaves the lives of two expatriates in Iraq, the ways in which they cope, and the rich friendship that they indulge in with each other as a means of keeping sane while also maintaining ties to their roots and their homeland. As one of the first journalists to enter Mosul in 2003, O'Donnell provides her readers with a particularly unique picture of life at that time. She was able to see the effects of the attacks on the people before they became immune to the sounds of bombs and to having to run for shelter during a raid. The in-depth look at the lives of these two British women living in Iraq was ultimately an accident, as O'Donnell came across them by chance and was fortunate enough to be able to sort through their experiences to present a human side of the war. Nigel Collett, in a review for the Asian Review of Books, observed that "this is a horrible story, but it is an excellent read. O'Donnell writes directly, punchily, at times lyrically, but always with an objective and self-effacing flair. She breaks up the story by filling in the background, changing the pace, alternating the voice of the narrator. This is a harrowing story but she refuses to allow it to descend into the maudlin." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly remarked: "A thorough look into Iraq's past and present, O'Donnell's tale adds a human element to the developing history of a turbulent nation."



Bookseller, April 6, 2007, review of High Tea in Mosul: The True Story of Two Englishwomen in War-Torn Iraq, p. 10.

Publishers Weekly, May 21, 2007, review of High Tea in Mosul, p. 46.

Spectator, April 7, 2007, "Our Women at the Front."

Time International, April 30, 2007, "Western Wives, Iraqi Lives," p. 56.

Times Literary Supplement, June 22, 2007, Barnaby Rogerson, review of High Tea in Mosul, p. 29.


Asian Review of Books Online,http://www.asianreviewofbooks.com/ (May 15, 2007), Nigel Collett, review of High Tea in Mosul.

Book Noise,http://www.booknoise.net/ (April 23, 2008), author profile.

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