Saturday, 2 April 2016

The Yellow Birds

Finished April 2
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

This first novel, and National Book Award Finalist, tells the story of one man's experience of war. The speaker, Private Bartle is twenty-one years old and telling his story in chunks of time that jump around from the events in Iraq back to basic training, forward to him back in the U.S., back to Iraq and so on. Before they go to Iraq, he is paired up with a younger man, Private Murphy by their sergeant, Sterling.
The war experiences are told in a very factual manner, each battle and death recorded as it appeared to them, As they experienced it. It is unemotional, but the very nature of telling shows the suppressed emotion. Whether it is a local translator, a fighter for the other side, one of their own, a civilian, they record each one, filing it away in their minds. And for some of them, this builds up inside, affecting them in ways that don't show, until they do.
The book has been compared to classics on the Vietnam War in the way it expresses the reality of the experience. Powers experienced this himself, serving in Iraq in 2004-2005, so he writes from his own knowledge. A powerful book.

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