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126 Reviews
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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 on 22 Aug 2012 by Sid Nuncius

versus
30 of 33 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 on 27 Sep 2012 by MisterHobgoblin


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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
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This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
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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.
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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
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This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
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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.
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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
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This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
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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.
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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
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This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
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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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful novel about the emotional experience of war, 13 Oct 2012
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This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
I bought Yellow Birds because it was well reviewed in The Times and The Guardian. I wasn't disappointed. It's quiet powerful tone conveys the gradual descent of a young recruit to the Iraq war into what psychotherapists would call post traumatic stress and associated depression. There are no concessions to sensitive feelings in what it describes, and yet the language of the novel carries it with quietly powerful prose which frequently rises to great beauty of description - and never description for the sake of it. What is described always contributes to the overall effect and cumulative fower of the novel. I say novel, which it is, but I imagine much of it is at least based on personal experience. Another kindle reviewer has called this a 21st century masterpiece. I agree. Not to be missed by anyone who is interested in war experience and powerful literature.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb picture of modern war, 9 Sep 2012
This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
This is a short, poetically written but completely accessible novel about war and the way combat alters the people who take part in it. It's the Iraq War novel I've been waiting for - timely, urgent, intelligent, truthful. I devoured it in two sittings and was put in mind of he very best writing about war, such as Hemingway, Anthony Swofford's Jarhead, Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried and Michael Herr.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Ok, 18 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Kindle Edition)
I found this book difficult to get into, I chose it as I have a friend in the army and wanted to get a look at what he experiences while in Iraq. I don't like giving negative reviews, the book was ok but over descriptive and slow paced so found myself looking interest quiet often
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Iraq and after, 8 Oct 2012
By 
Eleanor (Oxford, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
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In "The Yellow Birds", young soldier John Bartle, recalls, in non-linear episodes, his basic training, his time in Iraq during 2005, and the months and years following his return to the States. Ever present is the memory of his even younger friend Murph who has not made it back, despite Bartle's vow to protect him.

"The Yellow Birds" is a compelling novel which mixes direct military language with highly literary images, metaphors, and analysis. This is not an easy read, both because of the subject matter, and because the language is so dense and packed with ideas. At times I felt that Powers's metaphors got away from him and I wasn't actually sure what he was trying to say, but overall I would recommend this powerful and thought-provoking novel written by someone who has experienced at first hand the realities of war.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One man's war, 10 Sep 2012
By 
Sukie (South Coast) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Hardcover)
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As a former machine gunner who served in Iraq, Kevin Powers notes in the foreword of this novel that it was written as an attempt to answer the question 'What was it like over there?' If this was his aim, then he has undoubtedly succeeded.

The novel centres on John Bartle, a 21-year-old private in Iraq, serving alongside his friend Murph. Interspersed are chapters describing his attempts to readjust to an ordinary life once back in Virginia, along with the discomfort he feels at being hailed 'a hero' by the wider population. Told simply but with stunning lyricism, the narrative is unflinching and frank as Powers shines a spotlight on Bartle's fears, despair and growing numbness to the carnage and death he sees on a daily basis - and how extraordinary circumstances can bring out the best (and worst) in man.

This is a short book but packs an enormous punch. The sheer poetry of the writing, coupled with the unflinching description of combat (which is never gratuitous) and Bartle's feelings of horror and guilt will stay with me for a long time. This really is the best fictional interpretation of one man's war I have ever read - particularly when John returns home and cannot shake off his army drill: constantly clutching an imaginary rifle, or seeking out the best place to take cover. The sense of just how broken and damaged he has become is depicted with the lighest of touches - I felt truly moved.

An important, honest, powerful book. It deserves to be massive.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars a bit of a disappointment, 24 Aug 2013
By 
Donald Cook - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Yellow Birds (Kindle Edition)
could,nt really get into this book , kept jumping from america to iraq ,never reall y found out whatthe charges were or sentence , left far to much to assume about lots of things so not for me
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The Yellow Birds
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (Hardcover - 6 Sep 2012)
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