The Unravelling

Emma Sky

RRP: £9.99

5 May 2016

Published by Atlantic Books

ISBN: 9781782392606

RRP: £18.99

14 May 2015

Published by Atlantic Books

ISBN: 9781782392576

RRP: £8.99

14 May 2015

Published by Atlantic Books

ISBN: 9781782392590


When Emma Sky, an intrepid young British woman, volunteered to help rebuild Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, she had little idea what she was letting herself in for. It was only supposed to last three months but instead spanned a decade.

As the representative of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Kirkuk and then the political advisor to US General Odierno, Sky was valued for her outspoken voice and different perspectives that she brought due to her knowledge of the Middle East. Since the invasion in 2003, Sky has been a tireless witness to American efforts to transform a country traumatized by decades of war, sanctions and brutal dictatorship; to insurgencies and civil war; to the planning and implementation of the surge and the subsequent drawdown of US troops; to corrupt political elites who use sectarianism to mobilize support; and to the takeover of a third of the country by the Islamic State.

Called the ‘modern-day Gertrude Bell’ by The Times, Sky provides unique insights into the US military, and the complexities, diversity and evolution of Iraqi society. With sharp detail, tremendous empathy and respect for those who served – The Unravelling is an intimate portrait of how and why the Iraq adventure failed despite the best and often heroic efforts of its young men and women on the ground.


A charming, insightful account of Sky's remarkable odyssey, of her experience among Americans and IraqisMax Hastings
Sunday Times

The Unravelling reads almost like a novel: a detailed and darkly humorous account that tries to understand everyone involved, Iraqis and Americans, on their own terms... Sky's argumentative, chirpy and intelligent personality is thoroughly engagingRobin Yassin-Kassab

A radiant and beautifully written account, at turns funny and sadMax Boot
Wall Street Journal

Important and disturbing... To counter Iran in Iraq and prevent the alienation that created ISIS would have required... perhaps, a thousand Emma Skys. But there was only one of those.Christopher Dickey
New York Times Book Review

Hers was a fascinating world of senior military and diplomatic figures, many of them of the highest quality... She knew all the leading Iraqi politicians, many of whom regarded her as a personal friend. She saw much of Iraq and had some hair-raising experiences. And she always kept her sense of opposition to what was being done to the country. Many people likened her to Gertrude Bell, the British political adviser who helped to create Iraq, and in some ways they were right.John Simpson
New Statesman

A detailed account of the challenges of occupation... Readers will realise exactly why Iraq produced strongmen like SaddamColin Freeman
Daily Telegraph

The best book to date on the American war in Iraq... This authoritative first-person account is a must-read for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the complexity of the Iraq war, and the road to the current crises with the Islamic State.
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

The Unravelling is entertaining because Sky is a wry and intelligent companion. It is sad for its account of how the Obama administration squandered what Sky views as the victory that the surge had snatched from the first catastrophic years of US occupation. It is enlightening for how it helps us unlearn much of what we think we know
Washington Post

Sky's book... is the essential text on how everything fell apart

A scholar and a strategist, Sky's political perception alone makes worthwhile reading, including a preface that is as succinct a synopsis of Iraq today as you will find
Military Times

Sky's narrative is a valuable addition to recent history... What she experienced is relevant, and her story and perspective contribute to the ongoing effort to understand and explain the tragic aftermath of the much-criticized Iraq War.

[A] sober, thorough and ultimately heart-rending examination of what, to this day, keeps Iraq unstable, unhappy and a never-ending foreign policy disaster...a book with a rare perspective... What Sky produced, years later, is worth applauding. The Unravelling may be the most straightforward account yet-and the best that Britain will have for a while-of the failures in Iraq.
Financial Times

A deft, nuanced, and often funny account of her years as a civilian official in Iraq.
The New York Review of Books