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“The Bone Woman” by Clea Koff

The Bone Woman, written by Clea Koff, is considered to be forensic anthropology disclosing human rights abuses investigation. The book is written in an evocative style allowing the readers to dive into the depth of the author’s feelings and professional ideas. The analysis of The Bone Woman gives an opportunity to see the author’s desire to knowledge and evaluate frustration experience, its consequences, and impact on personal life.

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The story highlights the peculiarities of the professional atmosphere experienced by Clea Koff. She is described as a strong, resistant, and hard-working person being eager to devote as much time to her work as possible. The basic theme of the book is considered to be the fight for justice and the great desire to provide the best quality of the work fulfilled by the person. The protagonist of the story is provided with major missions in Bosnia, Croatia, and Rwanda; nevertheless, she never feels that her work can result in professional tiredness; all that she has done is just the beginning of something new.

This book raises a lot of problematic issues which are difficult to understand for ordinary people. One can hardly explain the motivation of people who select the studying of the dead as the profession. It is almost impossible to reflect the feelings and emotional state of the person working with the bodies of people being killed. Nevertheless, Koff managed to make the story quite involving allowing the readers to be in one shoe with the protagonist. The Bone Woman is regarded to be the author’s memoir based on the experience of mass graves work provided for Rwanda and Yugoslavia International Criminal Tribunals. One can observe that the author was merely driven by idealism and its views.

I found it inordinately satisfying to lift bodies I’ve excavated out of the grave” (Koff, 2005)

The central idea of the book is to show the investigation of truth by Koff. It is a constant fight for justice the author tries to provide for the dead.

These are people whom someone attempted to expunge from the record, the very bodies perpetrators sought to hide” (Koff, 2005)

One can follow the inner troubles of the protagonist; she feels that she is bound to genocide victims. Koff tries to show that she provides release to the dead from anonymity among all other mass burials. The book offers the disclosure of numerous convictions fulfilled with the help of Koff’s team at Yugoslavia and Rwanda international tribunals. The truth disclosed by Koff lay in the limited living comfort. Her rich experience allowed evaluating the hurt of those who suffer the death of close people. For example, once in Rwanda, Koff was asked to show the body of the woman’s uncle. Despair from what had been seen was enormous. The readers can feel the moments of breakage experienced by Koff. The detailed description of the protagonist’s sufferings and nightmares connected with work troubles and human tragedies gives an opportunity to dive into the emotionality of the story. Thus, Koff’s nightmare about her sharing the bed with legs tangle or about the head of the sunken man lodging in a table led the protagonist to complete inner instability and mental sufferings.

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Nevertheless, the realization of The Bone Woman as the author’s memoir cannot be considered complete. Self-knowledge of the author comes in flickers in comparison with that driving the book narrative. The emotional state in the attitude to work careens unfettered sorrow repression to the features of sentimentalized idealism. The aspects of office politics are almost dominative in the story: the narrative expresses her irritation connected with the behavior and strange views of her boss. For example, when the boss said that they were to take her out, the narrative heard it as: “We are coming to take you…. out of dinner” (Koff, 2005)

The style of the book is clearly presented in a simple manner for the readers to understand all the peculiarities of forensic anthropology. To express a personal opinion as to the data provided, it is important to stress that Koff’s experience appeared to be too profound and deepened in her profession. It is difficult to believe that a person of 23 can experience such events and things as described through the whole story. The writing of the author is provided in grace, accuracy, luminosity, and lyricism. The grisliest details of Koff’s profession and missions are filled with morality and humanity, making the book impressive and emotionally colored.

To sum up the analysis of the story, it is necessary to underline the tragic mood of the story. Koff managed to present the atmosphere of working with the bodies of the dead. The frustration experience of the narrative appeared to be rather rich and profound for the young girl, but her hard-working character motivated for new missions and fight for justice. The theme of anthropological motives was presented through Koff’s behavior and attitude to the dead and people who suffered the loss of close relatives and friends.


Koff, Clea. The Bone Woman. Random House Trade Paperbacks, pp. 304. 2005.

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StudyCorgi. "“The Bone Woman” by Clea Koff." October 17, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "“The Bone Woman” by Clea Koff." October 17, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) '“The Bone Woman” by Clea Koff'. 17 October.

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