Recently I caught up with a girlfriend who was brimming with the glow of a new relationship. As I enquired as to all the gossipy details as only good friends do, one factor stood out with particular poignancy. Her new love is a military man, currently stationed in the Middle East. I’ve often been struck in bewildered awe of the partners of those serving in the armed forces. How do they embark on such intimacy knowing that their beloved faces serious and mortal danger? The most severe workplace injury my husband is in danger of getting is a paper cut (and like man flu, is debilitating enough in itself). Modern warfare is so unspeakably unromantic. It is fierce and exact and altogether frightening beyond comprehension.
The Yellow Birds is a devastatingly brilliant novel about the effects of modern war on the human condition. The juxtaposition of ferocious and harrowing battle with Powers’ exquisite writing cannot be over-stated. Powers is a poet of the most compelling order. His sensitive prose conjures the rippling reality of war and the mental trauma that becomes the battlefront at home.
Despite the heavy subject matter, The Yellow Birds is incredibly effortless to read. Powers is an undemanding author. His novel captures his audience from the outset and, like any good soldier, will not let them go until they are returned safe at the end.