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4.2 out of 5 stars
152
4.2 out of 5 stars
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on 29 March 2017
Beautiful, elegant, heart breaking. That is how best I could describe this short novel.

I am not always a fan of shorter novels but length becomes irrelevant by the end of the first page. I will not risk writing about the plot, I can safely say I have never fortten this novel and remains on the shelf of my favourites.
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on 24 July 2016
A soldier's experiences in Iraq. Some powerful and vivid writing, highly rec for readers of first-person accounts of what it's like to fight in recent wars
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on 18 March 2014
I read this book for my book group and didn't much enjoy it. Two reasons, firstly the subject was fairly grim and secondly I found there was too much description which went on and on a bit too much for me... I don't wish to shy away from difficult reads but I didn't feel this book found the right balance and wouldn't much recommend it.
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on 27 August 2014
Lives up to the hype (just about).
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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 is narrated in the first person by private John Bartle on his first tour of duty in Iraq. The language is heightened throughout, often poetic and sometimes almost hallucinatory. The timescale moves between his time in Iraq, his pre-tour training and his homecoming and after. The story is really that of Bartle's psychological journey and is quite stunning in its evocation of the war itself and of the state of mind of the young man who went through it. It is deceptively quiet in tone with even the violent action (of which there is relatively little) described without hysteria, and this lends it a remarkable power to convey things like fear, exhaustion, the rush of excitement and the dreadful problems of reintegrating once home.

All this may sound forbidding, turgid or preachy but it isn't at all. This is an engrossing, readable book which is quite short but has immense impact and which will stay with me for a very long time. I think this genuinely belongs among great war books such as All Quiet On the Western Front and Dispatches. I could give a long list of examples of how thoughtful, insightful and honest it is, but I will just say that I recommend that you read it. It is truly exceptional and you will never forget it.
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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 is narrated in the first person by private John Bartle on his first tour of duty in Iraq. The language is heightened throughout, often poetic and sometimes almost hallucinatory. The timescale moves between his time in Iraq, his pre-tour training and his homecoming and after. The story is really that of Bartle's psychological journey and is quite stunning in its evocation of the war itself and of the state of mind of the young man who went through it. It is deceptively quiet in tone with even the violent action (of which there is relatively little) described without hysteria, and this lends it a remarkable power to convey things like fear, exhaustion, the rush of excitement and the dreadful problems of reintegrating once home.

All this may sound forbidding, turgid or preachy but it isn't at all. This is an engrossing, readable book which is quite short but has immense impact and which will stay with me for a very long time. I think this genuinely belongs among great war books such as All Quiet On the Western Front and Dispatches. I could give a long list of examples of how thoughtful, insightful and honest it is, but I will just say that I recommend that you read it. It is truly exceptional and you will never forget it.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( 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.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 February 2013
This is without question an interesting book that deals with a conflict that will define many people lives for years to come.

This does not mean to say the book itself will be read for years to come - only time will tell on that - but it does seem to have something important to say, and says it a way which is very different from the "soldiers stories" that have dominated up to this point.

Some people have suggested that the book is too florid in its writing style, and that is misses some important aspects of the war in Iraq, and I can understand these points.

But I think that may be the whole point of the book. It does not define itself by quoting the military name of every weapon used in the book - the American soldiers just carry `rifles'. It does not highlight typical days and behaviors.

What it does is tell the story of young man who, having joined the army for reasons other than just patriotism, tries to understand what he has to do to be true to himself and a promise he made. This is not a chronicle of the war, it is a chronicle of part of one mans war.

It may not contain "the" truth, but it feels authentic enough to contain some part of it.

At times a little over written, but never the less highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 16 September 2012
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Kevin Powers is a Iraq war veteran and poet, so he knows of what he speaks here and the poetry background gives him the skills to write about the war is a way that is visceral, real and utterly compelling.

It is a simple novel in terms of plot. John Bartle is back in the USA following his first tour of Iraq. He is struggling to adapt to life in civvy street and is haunted by events during his time in the war zone.

It has a small cast of characters, Bartle, Murph (who's death is at the centre of the events which torture Bartle) and Sterling, and all three of the principals are all expertly drawn. Sterling particularly is chilling - a man who is at his best when in combat, reckless, violent while sensitive and utterly believable.

The poetry of the writing stays with you. At times clipped and precise, at others hallucinatory and challenging, it is hard to believe this is a debut novel:

'We were not destined to survive. The fact is we were not destined at all. The war would take whatever it could get. It was patient. It didn't care about objectives, or boundaries, whether you were loved by many or not at all. While I slept that summer, the war came to me in my dreams and showed me its sole purpose: to go on, only to go on.'

I have a couple of tiny quibbles about the plotting and structure, but they are just that - tiny. This is an accomplished, affecting and emotionally true novel, that should be required reading in schools.
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This really is something special. Told as a first person narrative by Bartle, 21 years old and on his first tour of duty in Iraq, 2004, this documents his friendship with 18 year old fellow American soldier Murphy - and his desperate attempts to hold on to some remnants of humanity and compassion in the midst of war.

This is a beautifully-written novel which recounts the brutality of war in lyrical, almost poetic style. From the opening, War itself is personified as something with an agency and life of its own. I really liked that this is, in lots of ways, a quiet novel - it's not full of daring action, or obvious set pieces - though the central `event' which the narrative seems to almost want to shy away from, is appropriately violent and heart-rending.

While this is set in Iraq, it's a novel about war in more general and conceptual terms, and eschews localised politics for a depiction of the way in which combat ravages the spirit, striving to strip men of what makes them human. The only victory in this book is that Bartle resists giving in to violence, cruelty and inhumanity, and maintains a sense of care and very human sympathy.

The descriptions of Iraq as Ninevah give this a mythic air at times, and help to ground the book away from the specific. This isn't always an easy read in that it's painful and heartfelt - but it is an outstanding one.

Harrowing and beautiful, this is the sort of novel which deserves to win literary prizes - highly recommended.
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