It’s certainly no surprise to see the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts featuring in a growing number of war novels. Just recently I have read two particularly impressive examples from our library:
The Watch by Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya
The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers
The Watch, set in Afghanistan, tells the story of events following a furious fire-fight between American soldiers defending their isolated Kandahar base from Taliban attackers. The following day, a lone, war-crippled young woman appears outside the base seeking the return of her dead brother’s body, and the story tells what happens when her persistent demands and unsettling presence force the battle-weary soldiers to question their beliefs about the war in Afghanistan, setting them to confused arguing about what best to do with her. This powerful book, written in a style encompassing several different viewpoints, certainly does not shy away from showing the raw realism of war. A book trailer follows:
The second novel, The Yellow Birds, is equally powerful in its evocation of the plight of two American soldiers in the Iraqi War, 21-year-old Private Bartle and the comrade he promised to protect, 18-year-old Private Murphy. This novel is perhaps even more interesting stylistically, beginning: “The war tried to kill us in the spring”; and it, like The Watch, shows the deadly war-zone realities for soldiers. Kevin Powers is well qualified to write such a powerful book, having served in Iraq in 2004-2005, and he has commented that his intention was to ” … try the best I could to show the experience of war from inside …”.
It’s a harrowing read, but is so well written that it won the Guardian First Book Award 2012 and was a New York Times bestseller in its first week of publication. It is almost sure to become an addition to war classics such as “All Quiet on the Western Front” and “Catch-22″.