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A book review of Blindfold: A Memoir of Capture, Torture and Enlightenment by Theo Padnos

A book review of Blindfold: A Memoir of Capture, Torture and Enlightenment by Theo Padnos

Stars: ****

Scribner (2022)
400 pages

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This post contains affiliate links.


In 2012, American journalist Theo Padnos, fluent in Arabic, Russian, German, and French, traveled to a Turkish border town to write and report on the Syrian civil war. One afternoon in October, while walking through an olive grove, he met three young Syrians—who turned out to be al Qaeda operatives—and they captured him and kept him prisoner for nearly two years. On his first day, in the first of many prisons, Padnos was given a blindfold—a grime-stained scrap of fabric—that was his only possession throughout his horrific ordeal.

Now, Padnos recounts his time in captivity in Syria, where he was frequently tortured at the hands of the al Qaeda affiliate, Jebhat al Nusra. We learn not only about Padnos’s harrowing experience, but we also get a firsthand account of life in a Syrian village, the nature of Islamic prisons, how captors interrogate someone suspected of being CIA, the ways that Islamic fighters shift identities and drift back and forth through the veil of Western civilization, and much more.

No other journalist has lived among terrorists for as long as Theo has—and survived. As a resident of thirteen separate prisons in every part of rebel-occupied Syria, Theo witnessed a society adrift amid a steady stream of bombings, executions, torture, prayer, fasting, and exhibitions, all staged by the terrorists. Living within this tide of violence changed not only his personal identity but also profoundly altered his understanding of how to live.

Offering fascinating, unprecedented insight into the state of Syria today, Blindfold is “a triumph of the human spirit” (The New York Times Book Review)—combining the emotional power of a captive’s memoir with a journalist’s account of a culture and a nation in conflict that is as urgent and important as ever.


This is an amazing story and told well but it was a hard read. Tales of torture, entrapment, darkness and loneliness really strike you in the heart. I had to read this book in little bits, interspersed with happier books. It’s not meant to be a happy tale though

Theo went though hell and then went through it again. He was kidnapped in Syria and help prisoner in 13 different prisons within a 2 year span. The name references the only possession he had throughout his ordeal.

I honestly don’t know what else I could say about the book. It doesn’t sound right to say I enjoyed it. It opened my eyes to things that have gone on around the world, far from home. They aren’t pleasant things but I read about a lot of unpleasant things.

I’m proud of Theo for writing this book. I hope it helped him to heal.

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About Kathleen

I've been a nonfiction lover for as long as I can remember. I love children's nonfiction as well and love to share my knowledge and the books I gained them from, with the world. I wish more people would give nonfiction a chance.