‘Read this book’ – The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

ybkpRead this book. A bit direct I know, but trust me, you won’t regret it. The prose is so beautifully written it could be poetry, the descriptions take you right into the moment so that the reader sees and feels everything with the protagonist.

This book is about Bartle, a young solider in the US army working as a gunner in Iraq, attempting to come to terms with the death of his friend Murph who was killed during the war. The naïve Bartle made a promise to Murph’s mother to bring him home safe, something that he fails at and it’s something he can never forget.

We go back and forth between times with Bartle, as he flips back and forth between Iraq, Germany and the /US, examining things over and over again. Bartle has always tried to find the value in his life and signing up to the army was one way to finding meaning in his existence. It causes tension with his mother but he goes anyway and comes back to her broken and in pain.

Sterling is his sergeant, a damaged but sharp and complicated man filled with so much rage. Bartle loves and hates this man at the same time; Sterling barks orders at them but then he keeps them together when everything else is falling apart around them. He forces them to move on during gun battles by slamming their helmets with his gun and yelling in their ears. Sterling is needed to keep the boys moving, to keep them safe, but it doesn’t mean they have to like him.

Bartle is dragged into anther mess after his discharge when the past catches up with him. There is no one left to defend him or take the rap. It almost destroys him just as he’s started to recover, or at least make some sense of his life.

It’s the little details in the book that touches you; the story of the old woman and her hyacinths; the child pulling a woman’s body from a car; the sheer exhaustion of the soldiers and how they try to stay conscious before entering a fight; the buildings and the people existing in this hell hole. It’s written so incredibly detailed and creates amazing imagery.

The war is the background to Bartle’s fight with himself and understanding his emotions. I don’t usually read war books, but this is so much more. This is about the people involved and what they go through.

Any Cop?: An amazing debut novel.

Claire Snook


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