Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

The Yellow Birds (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Kevin Powers

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
935909,321 (3.81)156
Title:The Yellow Birds
Authors:Kevin Powers
Info:Sceptre/Hodder & Stoughton, London, England (2012), Edition: First Edition, Hardcover
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (2012)

2012 (10) 2013 (14) 21st century (9) American (15) American literature (11) book club (5) contemporary fiction (5) ebook (10) fiction (148) friendship (16) historical fiction (6) Iraq (69) Iraq War (56) Kindle (8) literature (11) Middle East (13) military (18) novel (26) PTSD (10) read (9) read in 2012 (8) read in 2013 (12) Roman (6) signed (5) soldiers (24) to-read (57) unread (5) USA (14) Virginia (9) war (83)

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 156 mentions

English (83)  German (2)  Danish (2)  Spanish (1)  French (1)  All languages (89)
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
Warning: this review contains spoilers.


I wanted to like this more than I did. The story it tells is an interesting one: Bartle and Murph are sent to Iraq together, but only Bartle comes home, and he has to cope with the aftermath of what happened. This story is told gradually, alternating between the United States and Iraq, during and after the deployment. The deployment sections were more interesting; the post-deployment sections had a few too many "Had I But Known"-style comments and overly descriptive passages. I also found the ending a bit unsatisfactory; it ends on a very strange note. I would also like to have known more about what happened to Sterling and the circumstances surrounding his death.

I picked this up because apparently it is slated to be a movie. It might actually work better as a movie; the screen might strip away the poetic descriptions and help make sense of the shifts in time and place. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Jul 2, 2014 |
A very moving account of the Iraq war and its aftermath for an emotionally wounded private. Much of it feels like a standard fare war novel: the naive privates, the tough-but-fair battle-hardened sergeant, the starched uniform colonels who drop in to give a Patton-like speech posing for the cameras, and the gallows humor about alarm warning bells that only go off after the mortar attacks are over.

The Iraq scenes are all about the battle for Al Tafar, they give no big picture view of the war or why the battle is being fought, they just begin with soldiers advancing on the town and continue through some patrols and some time at the FOB--without any climatic battles, context, or anything else. At one point we're informed that every spring the Americans leave/lose Al Tafar, and then every fall they take it back again.

These Iraq scenes alternate with scenes in Germany and America, mostly after Private Bartle leaves the war but in a few cases before the war. These depict the emotional damage it did to him.

What makes The Yellow Birds increasingly moving and differentiates it from the standard-fare cliches that dominate in the beginning, is the harrowing focus on a few individual deaths--and especially on one particular death of his best friend in the squad that is revealed in the beginning of the book but that we learn more and more about over the course of the book. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Beautifully written book about the Iraq war. A bit of this book was predictable to me, but it was so well written that I didn't mind. I'm sure I'll be wondering for a long time how much of this book was personal experience of the author, who is an Iraq war veteran. ( )
  Mathenam | Jun 8, 2014 |
One of the epigraphs for this book seems to summarize it best with the metaphor of an innocent yellow bird being brutally destroyed by a human. Certainly, Murph, experienced the same before he died, a death chosen rather than survival. Yet perhaps the worse destruction is experienced by his surviving buddy, Bartle. It did not surprise me to read that the author, Kevin Powers, was a Michener Fellow in Poetry in graduate school. Powers' prose is absolutely beautiful, creating a stark contrast with the anything but beautiful plot. This novel is heartrending! A very impressive debut. In many ways this book earns five stars by my criteria. The use of language and characters are stellar. However, there is something about the rhythm of the story that fell a bit short. So, 4 stars, and a desire to see more from this author in the future. ( )
  hemlokgang | May 28, 2014 |
3.5, really ( )
  patsaintsfan | May 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 83 (next | show all)
A remarkable, beautifully understated, powerful, yet poised novel.
The novel moves, fitfully, through Virginia and Iraq and Germany and New Jersey and Kentucky, from 2003 to 2009. Recalling the war, Bartle says, is “like putting a puzzle together from behind: the shapes familiar, the picture quickly fading, the muted tan of the cardboard backing a tease at wholeness and completion.” This serves the story in two ways. First, it turns readers into active participants, enlisting them in a sense as co-authors who fit together the many memories and guess at what terrible secret lies in wait, the truth behind Murphy’s death. Because they lean forward instead of back, because they participate in piecing together the puzzle, they are made more culpable.

Then too, the fractured structure replicates the book’s themes. Like a chase scene made up of sentences that run on and on and ultimately leave readers breathless, or like a concert description that stops and starts, that swings and sways, that makes us stamp our feet and clap our hands — the nonlinear design of Powers’s novel is a beautifully brutal example of style matching content. War destroys. It doesn’t just rip through bone and muscle, stone and steel; it fragments the mind as a fist to a mirror might create thousands of bloodied, glittering shards.
...and while few will have expected the war in Iraq to bring forth a novel that can stand beside All Quiet on the Western Front or The Red Badge of Courage, The Yellow Birds does just that, for our time, as those books did for theirs.
added by Milesc | editThe Guardian, John Burnside (Aug 31, 2012)

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kevin Powersprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abelsen, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
For my wife
Στη γυναίκα μου
First words
The war tried to kill us in the spring.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Bartle , 21 ans , est soldat en Irak à Al Tafar. Depuis l'entraînement , lui et Murph , 18 an sont inseparables . Bartle a fait la promesse de le ramener vivant au pays . Une promesse qu'il n'a pas pu tenir ... Murphy hante dès lors ses rêves de soldat et , plus tard de veteran.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316219363, Hardcover)

Amazon Best Books of the Month, Debut Spotlight, September 2012: With The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers introduces himself as a writer of prodigious talent and ambition. The novel opens in 2004, when two soldiers, 21-year-old Bartle and the teenaged Murphy, meet in boot camp on the eve of their deployment to Iraq. Bartle, bound by a promise to Murphy's mother to guide him home safely, takes the young private under his wing as they move through the bloody conflict that "rubbed its thousand ribs against the ground in prayer." Powers, an Iraq veteran, eyes the casual violence of war with a poet's precision but without romanticism, moving confidently between scenes of blunt atrocity and almost hallucinatory detachment with Hemingway-like economy and prose that shimmers like desert heat. Compact and emotionally intense, The Yellow Birds joins a maturing and impressive collection of Iraq War literature--both memoir and fiction--that includes Brian Castner's The Long Walk and Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. --Jon Foro

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:52 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In the midst of a bloody battle in the Iraq War, two soldiers, bound together since basic training, do everything to protect each other from both outside enemies and the internal struggles that come from constant danger.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
254 wanted5 pay3 pay

Popular covers


Average: (3.81)
0.5 2
1 2
1.5 1
2 16
2.5 8
3 51
3.5 31
4 117
4.5 22
5 56


An edition of this book was published by Audible.com.

See editions

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.


Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 91,251,942 books! | Top bar: Always visible