Customer Reviews


116 Reviews
5 star:
 (62)
4 star:
 (33)
3 star:
 (11)
2 star:
 (10)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favourable review
The most helpful critical review


60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant
This is a superb, moving and insightful book about war and its effects on the men and women who take part in it. The author, Kevin Powers, is a veteran of Iraq in 2004 where this book is set and is now a poet. This combination of first-hand experience and ability with language coupled with great insight and honesty creates something quite remarkable.

The book...
Published 23 months ago by Sid Nuncius

versus
29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Let's break rank
The Yellow Birds is a novel that sets out to show the hardships of war and the conflict between personal and national concerns. It is hard to criticise novels like this without seeming to support the suffering.

OK, let's break rank.

The Yellow Birds, worthy though the subject matter might be, is confusing and opaque. Kevin Powers is a poet and it...
Published 22 months ago by MisterHobgoblin


‹ Previous | 1 2 312 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overwritten?, 6 Nov 2012
By 
The Emperor (UK) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I wish that I liked this more. I just don't really like the writing style. It just seemed overwritten to me. It felt very contrived and artificial and it seemed that it could have been written by any creative writing graduate. There are passages of descriptive writing that I enjoyed and admired but mostly it seemed very laboured.

It shouldn't have felt inauthentic because the author was a genuine soldier. It was quite moving and insightful at times but again it almost seemed to suggest that his experiences were universal and that all soldiers are the same.

A lot of people seem to like this so maybe it just comes down to my personal taste.
I much preferred many other books written by soldiers in the second world war and the Vietnam War.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Road to nowhere, 27 Dec 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Kindle Edition)
This is a book about growing up. It features the following hallmarks of adolescence: 1. The point of view is entirely subjective to the point of solipsism. 2. Every sentence and event appears to be forced with loaded 'significance' that rings false. 3. The occasional stabs at mundane and inexperienced insight. These things might be excused as aspects of character except that they belong to the narrative. The characters are featureless.

The various paean's to a lost friend 'Murph' felt cliched and there was no real motive given to the reader as to why Murph's loss should have as much relevance as it does to the narrator. The use of fractured narrative to demonstrate a fractured state of mind also felt tired and worn.

There is little or no insight here into the war in the Middle East, soldiering, technique etc...
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stark, strong., 25 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
A powerful novel, but somehow not too different from lots of other war narratives. It's a bit like Hemingway channelled by Denis Johnson, so not bad.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and moving., 27 Feb 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Kindle Edition)
I found this book very thought provoking. The author, whilst obviously having first hand experience of the war in Iraq, has a beautiful style of writing that compels you keep reading. I found it hard to believe that the incidents were fiction. Everything was related in such detail and although difficult to relate to the suffering, the reader is left in no doubt about the heinous acts and total devastation in a war zone. I feel sure that many would find this subject matter too difficult and upsetting to read, it is not for people in a nervous or depressed state.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful book that should be widely read....., 21 Dec 2012
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
In 2006 John Bartle returns from the Iraq War psychologically damaged. He is haunted by the fate of his friend Murph. He had promised Murph's mother that he would make sure her son came home safe. This was an unrealistic promise and we know from the start that nineteen year-old Murph never returned to his family - but it is only much later in the book that we are told the real horror of his death.

Good (and not-so-good) books emerge from all wars and we are now beginning to get some excellent literary work from recent foreign "adventures". The Yellow Birds has been critically acclaimed and joins Billy Lynn's Long Half-Time Walk by Ben Fountain as one of the best so far. The writing is poetic, but in a very muscular way. He makes the unforgiving environment very real to the reader and we feel the fear and confusion of the ordinary soldier. The reasons for the war are never discussed - they are there because they were sent there....

There are even echoes of Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five when Kevin Powers ends some reflections with "So it goes".

This is a powerful book that deserves a wide readership.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Astoundingly excellent and important first novel about the Iraqi war, 21 Dec 2012
By 
J. Coulton "Julia Coulton" (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
We have been fighting a war in Iraq and Afghanistan for so long now that it's sometimes easy to become immune to the devastating effects that combat can have on those men and women directly involved in it. Newspaper headlines fail to grip as they should after such a long drawn out and hotly disputed conflict. And so it falls to other mediums to convey the vital messages that we must never forget. Kathryn Bigelow's astonishingly brilliant and fittingly garlanded film The Hurt Locker was one such vehicle. And another one, this time in the form of a novel, which is every bit as raw and powerful and urgent, comes in the form of Kevin Powers' The Yellow Birds.

I have no doubt that Powers would not have been able to tell the story of John Bartle's devastating experiences in Iraq with such power and impact if the author had not himself fought in that place. As it is, his two year tour of duty in Mosul and Tal Afar as a machine gunner with the US army, tells on every page. Bartle befriends another young soldier, and rashly promises his mother to keep him safe, in a place which is anything but. Their relationship in battle is played out under the ever watchful, and sometimes brutal, hardened eye of their sergeant Sterling.

Power is a tremendously effective writer, with no word out of place, no paragraph put in as filler, in this novel that speeds along in flashback to the war zone, and afterwards to Bartle's traumatic return home as a survivor. He is an extremely reluctant war hero however. On his return home to the airport he turns down the bartender's offer of free drinks 'I didn't want to smile and say thanks. Didn't want to pretend I'd done anything except survive.'

The brutalising effects of being involved in a war, both on the inhabitants whose homeland is occupied, and on the forces doing the occupying in a hostile land, are depicted in a crystal clear way through the experiences of this one soldier. The after care, or rather shocking lack of it, for returning fighters is also laid bare. The description of Bartle's inability to cope with a world he no longer understands, or can function in, but which he has to call home, is astounding.

This is truly the best novel I have read this year. It is accomplished, excellently written, and vitally important. Whatever your view of the war, I urge you to read it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brief but hard hitting, 8 Dec 2012
By 
Denise4891 (Cheshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 100 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Kevin Powers served with the US Army in Iraq and is now a Poetry Fellow at the University of Texas. This extraordinary journey has no doubt helped shape this very powerful and moving debut novel.

The story follows the lives of two soldiers John Bartles and Daniel `Murph' Murphy on their first tour of duty in Iraq. The experiences of the soldiers and their comrades are conveyed in brutal and shocking detail and no punches are pulled in portraying the devastating physical and mental effects of warfare on these young men. And these effects are lasting - despite returning home to a hero's welcome, John knows the truth of what happened out there and feels undeserving of the praise and respect he receives: "I'm being eaten from the inside out and I can't tell anyone what's going on because everyone is like so grateful to me all the time ... they should all hate me for what I've done but everyone loves me ... and it's driving me crazy".

The language is descriptive and almost poetic at times, but also felt shockingly real. Reading The Yellow Birds was a relatively brief but powerful and very thought-provoking experience and I'll await Powers' next novel with interest and anticipation.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Day Classic, 22 Nov 2012
By 
Brett H "pentangle" (Brighton) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Yellow Birds is an extraordinary book. It is beautifully written and is the sort of volume which wins literary prizes and which will be studied by future generations. This does not make it either an enjoyable or an easy read. It is however, both compelling and very worthwhile.

More than anything it is a classic essay on the futility of war and the psychological effect it has on young men plucked from their homes and sent far away to follow orders. Set in Iraq, the narrator, Bartle, initially sees a pattern to the violence. Who is going to be the thousandth death amongst the soldiers? Should they count Iraqi interpreters in the score? Is your fate predestined - the classic bullet with your number on it theory. However, as he sees his comrades die he is overwhelmed by the sheer randomness of it all. If they had advanced three miles an hour faster they would have hit an IED, stood a few inches across and bought a bullet.

Bartle and his friend, Murphy, are very young men - 18 and 20 years old - who have not anticipated the Groundhog Day scenario in which they find themselves. A town is captured at great expense, repopulated by the enemy and then taken again on an annual basis with many further casualties. Meanwhile life goes on with touches of normality. A woman tending her hyacinths. Shopkeepers going about their business. People going on with their everyday lives. All this is interspersed with the extreme violence mixed in with the normality which makes for a strange incongruity.

The author has clearly written this from his personal experiences and thoughts having served in Iraq and having joined the army as a 17 year old gunner. In writing this he was trying to answer the often asked question `what was it like over there'. There is no answer to this unless you have been there and the switching of scene and time lines throughout the book emphasises this. There was huge confusion in what was happening and what the participants were thinking, but again little pattern.

When you finish this book you are left with a feeling of sadness and an overwhelming impression of the pointlessness of war. This is certainly a book which will stay with you long after you have turned the last page and I would highly recommend it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars RAW, HEARTFELT, DISTURBING, 27 Oct 2012
By 
Mr. D. L. Rees "LEE DAVID" (DORSET) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
2005. Al Tafar in Iraq. Three young soldiers are traumatized by their experiences. Private John Bartles narrates - he haunted by memories of refugees and killings, bloated bodies devoured by dogs and rats, dehumanization during battles when the fervent hope is that anybody but self will be the next statistic. For him, though, eclipsing all such painful images is the fate of eighteen year old Murph....

A harrowing read. An army marching chant concerns a yellow bird lured to its destruction. So it would seem is the fate of those depicted here. The aim is to tell it as it was, Bartle describing starkly but with a poet's eye and sensitivity.

This short, powerful novel provokes many thoughts - the human story behind each newly reported death; the plight of those permanently maimed, both in body and in mind. Kevin Powers does not take sides, only too aware of the suffering caused for all when war is declared.

I cannot claim to have "liked" or "loved" this work, the five stars instead awarded out of admiration for the way the novel so gripped. Many other readers no doubt also emerged drained, made uncomfortably more aware of matters perhaps taken too much for granted.

Recommended.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Ordinary Soldier in Nineveh, 20 Oct 2012
By 
HJK (Gomersal UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
A short novel - 183 pages in quite a large font size - it is oh so BEAUTIFULLY written. The first chapter has the most wonderful imagery and draws you in to read on.

The story is told in the first person by Bartle who remembers his time in the Iraq war, he sees another soldier, Murph everywhere he looks, and thinks about the promise he made to this man's mother.

The brutality of the war comes over, thoughts come back from before, during and after and slowly you piece together the story of what happened and the sheer dreadfulness of it all.

The author served in the US area and was in Iraq in 2004 & 2005. He is now a fellow in Poetry at the University of Texas. Although this novel is not a poem, his use of language is filled with poetry. The irony of it all, is that this poetic language is used to examine the horrors of war and the impact on those who survive.

Beautiful words - Dreadful deeds - well worth the time to read and reflect.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 312 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

This product

The Yellow Birds
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (Hardcover - 6 Sep 2012)
14.99
In stock
Add to basket Add to wishlist
Only search this product's reviews