The Sirens of Baghdad by Yasmina Khadra

October 9, 2010 § 5 Comments

Title: The Sirens of Baghdad

Author: Yasmina Khadra
Publisher: Doubleday
Series: A Trilogy of Islamic Fundamentalism
Genre: General Fiction, Political Thriller

The Story

Forced to leave the University of Baghdad when the Americans invade Iraq, a young man from a small desert village returns home, where he witnesses three events that transform him. First, American soldiers at a checkpoint kill the sweet and beloved “village idiot.” Several days later, an American plane bombs a wedding on the outskirts of the village. And then one night, soldiers looking for terrorists come to the young man’s own home and humiliate his father in full view of the terrified family. Consumed by the desire to avenge this unspeakable act, the youth leaves the village for the city. 

Baghdad is going up in flames. The young man searches for a place to stay before being taken in by a radical group and convincing its members that he is willing to do anything to help their cause. After proving his mettle by participating in several attacks, he is sent to Beirut to undertake a super-secret mission that will take him to London. As the time to board the plane nears, he struggles to reconcile his mission with his moral principles.
My Thought
The Sirens of Baghdad is truly an eye-opener, provided us with an insight and perspective on the war and the people who directly involved in the war itself. The story was told from the point of view of a young Iraqis and took place during the invasion of US army in Iraq after the tragedy of September 11. He experienced all the damages including the emotional damage due to the cruelty of the war. This is a well crafted story with full of emotions, disappointments, sadness, anger and resentment. Yasmina Khadra did such a brilliant job in writing such a sensitive issue like this. He didn’t put the blame on any party, but rather he gave us the details about how the conflict arose and why it happened in the first place. So, when you closed the book you’ll be thinking in different way from when you first opened the book. 
The first part of the book was taken place in Kafr Karam, somewhere in Iraq, which is the village of the main character. A series of regretful events occurred before his own eyes. His friends got killed unreasonably, and his family was assaulted by the enemy resulting his father got killed brutally with no pity at all. These events leave a deep wound in his heart and it won’t be healed over time. He sought for a better life and left Kafr Karam to Baghdad, with the hope that life would be better. But, thing didn’t happened as he expected.The situation worsen and his wound became deeper. The war have turned the society into chaos, the place once was beautiful turned into a rotten and disgusting place. So, this man loathed the West so much and sought for revenge. Then, his only aim was to destroy the enemy and to make them feel what he and his people feel. SUFFER. So, then he went to Beirut to be injected with a powerful weapon, “the virus” and his mission is to bring the virus to the enemy territory and infect as many people as possible, innocent or guilty both will be punished. It scared me a lot.
All in all, The Sirens of Baghdad was a gripping story with full of regretful events which slap you hard on your face so that you’ll wake up from your deep sleep. Yasmina Khadra crafted the story beautifully with the strong characters and breathtaking storyline. But, the only irritating thing about this book is, you don’t know what is the name of the main character, because it never once mentioned in the story. The rest is great! Well, I’m so grateful that I’m living in peace here in Malaysia, without fear to go to university, to sleep on bed, and to write this review. *smile 
Favourite Quotes
The imam concluded his lesson by saying, “It’s not a question of washing your bodies, but your souls, young men. If you’re rotten inside, neither rivers no oceans will suffice to make you clean.” pg. 37
Life’s nothing but an insane gamble; it’s the way you die that determines whether or not you win the bet. That’s how legends are born. pg. 269
CoffeeNCrackers’ Meter
4 Cups of Coffee: A beautifully crafted eye-opener story about real people, real lives, and how they are really affected by the war. A satisfying read and it left me wanting more from Yasmina Khadra.

§ 5 Responses to The Sirens of Baghdad by Yasmina Khadra

  • This looks like a book Gerard might like. I'm going to email him the link to your review.

  • cj'alhafiz says:

    @Karen: Yes, I think Gerard will love it. Hope that I can get his thought about the book soon. Thanks Karen…

  • Hey thanks for your nice comment on my Shiver review:)!Tell me if you like the book then? Usually I am not that interested in stories with political background connected with war, but your review is great!Last semestre I got a course talking about war correspondence, really interesting and it turned me a bit in the direction "The Sirens of Baghdad" point. I've also recommended it to my best friend over at, she is a politician at heart:)

  • Shy says:

    This is indeed a powerful read. I've always wonder how it is like living in fear at countries afflicted by wars. I guess that this book would be a good start. I like that you mentioned that the author makes readers think rather than pointing his finger at the party that he thinks starting the war itself. Great review!

  • Kristen says:

    Wow this sounds like a fantastic novel. I will definitely look into getting a copy to read. Also might be a great book for book clubs and a lot you could talk about with it. Thanks for the great review!

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