A powerful and sometimes disturbing debut novel by Iraq war veteran Kevin Powers, The Yellow Birds is an unforgettable depiction of the psychological impact of war. The novel is also about friendship, love and keeping promises, as John comes to terms trying to uphold the promise he made to Murph’s Mum that he would bring him home safely. Powers, who is now a Michener Fellow in Poetry at the University of Texas at Austin, beautifully portrays their Sergeant as he answers Murph’s question “What’s It Like Over There?” If you needed any convincing of the wastes of war then read this novel. It is not an easy read but beautifully written and deeply compelling; be prepared to shed a tear.

Hodder & Stoughton/hardback/£14.99/9781444756128

Sheila O’Reilly