Summary and book reviews of Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif

Red Birds

by Mohammed Hanif

Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif X
Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif
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  • Paperback:
    May 2019, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Naomi Benaron
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About this Book

Book Summary

A powerful novel about war, family and love, from the bestselling, prize-winning author dubbed 'Pakistan's brightest voice.' (Guardian)

An American pilot crash lands in the desert and takes refuge in the very camp he was supposed to bomb. Hallucinating palm trees and worrying about dehydrating to death isn't what Major Ellie expected from this mission. Still, it's an improvement on the constant squabbles with his wife back home. In the camp, teenager Momo's money-making schemes are failing. His brother left for his first day at work and never returned, his parents are at each other's throats, his dog is having a very bad day, and an aid worker has shown up wanting to research him for her book on the Teenage Muslim Mind. Written with his trademark wit, keen eye for absurdity and telling important truths about the world today, Red Birds reveals master storyteller Mohammed Hanif at the height of his powers.

Paperback original.

Chapter 1
Ellie

On the third day, I find the plane. I'd been looking for something to eat or drink, anything of nutritional value really. I know that I can't survive for long on the measly rations in my survival kit. A ripped parachute and regulation sunglasses were all I had found on my bruised ass when I came to. Roving Angels would be on their way to rescue me, but sometimes Angels can take their time and in order for this rescue to be successful I need to stay alive.

I unzip my survival kit again to inspect its contents, the things that will keep me alive.

Four energy bars.
Two vitamin smoothies.
A roll of surgical cotton.
A roll of surgical gauze.
Needle and thread.

They give you a 65-million-dollar machine to fly, with the smartest bomb that some beam rider in Salt Lake City took years to design, you burn fuel at the rate of fifteen gallons per second and if you get screwed they expect you to survive on four energy bars and an organic smoothie. And look, a mini pack of ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Red Birds, Mohmmed Hanif's latest novel, is part Catch-22, part Slaughterhouse-Five, part Kafka's The Castle, and all Hanif's darkly satirical wit and wildly creative imagination. It gives the very slightest taste, one imagines, of the uncertainty of a war zone, and that taste is what Hanif wanted to accomplish.   (Reviewed by Naomi Benaron).

Full Review Members Only (1062 words).

Media Reviews

The Daily Mail (UK)
Deploying a relentlessly grim gallows humour, Hanif skewers the entrenched insanity of conflict … Hanif's bleak, formidable use of irony burns deeply.

The Guardian (UK)
Red Birds is a fresh marvel, describing with cool wit and steely yet tender intelligence the interlinked fates of antagonists in a forgotten war-scape – and the complicity of our own sheltered lives in remote conflicts.

The National (UK)
An impressive multi-voiced performance that straddles bitter tragedy and pungent black comedy, grounded realism and flighty absurdity … Red Birds thrums with rambunctious energy… this is writing with guts, satire with bite

The Observer (UK)
An acutely observed refugee tale … Both achingly realistic and elusively metaphysical … dripping with exuberant disdain for the way in which western power has corrupted the world … an effective satire that reminds us that everybody – refugees, distraught mothers, unthinking airmen, well-meaning aid workers, dogs and ghosts – has a need to love, and be loved

The Times (UK)
A blistering, savage, tragicomic satire about the cruelty of war and the impossibility of peace … Hanif writes of violence and bitterness with flashes of hilarity that underline his anger and his humanity.

Literary Review (UK)
Hanif has a talent for taking the most serious subjects…and, in a style indebted to Joseph Heller's Catch-22, emphasising their fundamental absurdity through satire. Hanif's authorial gifts are undeniable and Red Birds is written with ambition and powerful satirical anger.

Library Journal
Hanif (A Case of Exploding Mangoes) has written a biting satire in the form of a literary ghost story brimming with boundless compassion and a deep appreciation for absurdity in what is, ultimately, an unwinnable conflict.

Booklist (starred review)
Stranger and stranger. Hanif has written a splendidly satirical novel that beautifully captures the absurdity and folly of war and its ineluctable impact on its survivors. At turns funny and heartbreaking, it is a memorable contribution to the literature of conflict.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Funny, fresh, and not afraid to draw blood, this is an unusual gem of a book.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Human Cost of War in Post-9/11 Conflicts

The attacks of September 11, 2001 and the United States' subsequent military response fundamentally changed the political landscape of the Middle East/Central-South Asia. This landscape is the setting of Red Birds by Mohammed Hanif, who declared one of the goals of this project to "take the readers by the hand to lead them out of the comfort of their living rooms and into another space," the space of the human cost of the wars in this region. In 2011, The Cost of War Project,"a team of 35 scholars, legal experts, human rights practitioners, and physicians" came together at the Watson Institute of International & Public Affairs at Brown University in an attempt to independently quantify the human and economic costs of the Iraq and ...

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