Flying with Kites – Alan Reynolds

Read                23 – 25 February 2012

My Rating        3 / 5

Format             Paperback

I should have loved this book, and other reviews have been really positive – see here on Amazon and Alan’s own blog.

It just didn’t do it for me, and I can’t seem to put my finger on the reason why. I enjoyed the beginning section, following Katya as she is caught in the midst of the Kosovan conflict of the late 1990’s, But, from chapter five onwards, I really really struggled with this book.

I think the main thing I struggled with was Reynolds’ writing style. It, to me, felt clunky in places and I have to say that the use of “inverted commas” drove me insane from chapter five onwards. I recognise this is personal choice but I found it really really irritating and it just interfered with the text for me.

The book follows Katya as she escapes Kosovo with her young son, and finds herself on a housing estate in Newcastle. The story explores the lives of some key characters in the flats where Katya and Edi (another refugee) are housed, and goes someway to painting the picture of life in this area of England.

I’d have liked to have seen/read more about Katya’s time in Kosovo, and to see a bit more depth about the war in order to provide some understanding the conflict. There is reference to the KLA and how NATO sees them as terrorists, but the ordinary Kosovon doesn’t – it’s a complex, yet important, part of European history and I’d have liked to have seen Reynolds dig deeper into this and go some way to explaining the conflict to the reader; I think this would have gone some way to getting a deeper feel and, for me, a greater connection to the character of Katya.

I recognise that given earlier reviews of this book I am absolutely in the minority with my review, so I really urge you to read this book yourself and come to your own judgement. It just didn’t work for me, despite me really really wanting it to.

If you do read Flying with Kites, I’d love to know what you think, so please do comment on this review!


You can buy this book on or Why not follow Alan on twitter –  @AlanReynolds2 or pop along to his website here.




Filed under 3 Star, Book Review

3 responses to “Flying with Kites – Alan Reynolds

  1. I think I was enthralled by Flying with Kites for all the reasons that you did not like it. I admit that the writing style of what is a first novel does have some awkward moments, but in over 95% of the pages Alan Reynolds has created a pace to the story that demonstrates how little control the central characters have over their fate. Whether they are in Kosovo or Newcastle, regardless of whether they are English or refugee they all have to make split second decisions with consequences far beyond their control.

    Flying with Kites is not a book about the war in Kosovo or any other war. Neither is it a book about Kosovo. For me it captures with real sincerity how war affects one woman and how her life like that of any refugee is turned upside down. To provide more coverage of the war, it’s causes or it’s various combatants would have been a distraction from the very real human story of the characters.

    If the war had been discussed in more detail then the causes of the social deprivation in the North East should also have been discussed. But neither is important to issues that the characters have to deal with at this stage in their stories.

    As someone from the North East one of the great things for me about Flying with Kites is that the hope in the story comes directly from the people of the north east and the warm way in which they welcome people who are less well off than themselves.

    • And that is why literature is wonderful! The same book left us both with a very different impression.

      For me, the book didn’t go deep enough into the character to show the effects on Katya and her son. I felt it only scratched the surface. I disagre that it isn’t about the war in Kosovo. The war was used as a backdrop, and the politics of the war will have informed decisions made by Katya in the lead up to her leaving. Had the author covered this in more detail, I think it would have helped build a deeper empathy with the character. I found some sections unbelieavable (in fact the bit with Katya and Polly when he takes the photos being a case in point).

      I also don’t think it’s a book about the North East, sadly there are too many parts of this country with huge social deprivation issues, the North East, I suspect, is a familiar area for the author and so he, understandably chose to use this area.

      It’s good to hear another persons opinion, and I fully accept that my review is in the minority of opinion with this particular book.

  2. Pingback: My week in books – 19 – 26 February | A Kindle & Kittens

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