Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Last Kestrel” as Want to Read:
The Last Kestrel
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Last Kestrel

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  171 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews

Two strong women. Two cultures. One unifying cause: survival.

Ellen Thomas, experienced war correspondent, returns to Afghanistan 's dangerous Helmand Province on assignment, keen to find the murderer of her friend and translator, Jalil. In her search for justice in a land ravaged by death and destruction, she uncovers disturbing truths.

Hasina, forced by tradition into the

Kindle Edition, 304 pages
Published (first published January 1st 2010)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Last Kestrel, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Last Kestrel

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jill McGivering
Apr 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)  ·  review of another edition
This is my first novel - please do read it! It's set in Helmand Province, Afghanistan and pits an experienced female war correspondent (Ellen Thomas) against an Afghan female villager whose home is destroyed by Western troops. My work as a BBC News Correspondent has taken me often to Afghanistan. I wanted to write about the impact of the current conflict on "ordinary" people, especially women, and also about the gulf in understanding between Afghans and foreign forces from the West...
Mary Harper
Dec 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jill is a first class journalist. By reading The Last Kestrel I discovered she is also a first class novelist. She translates what is so human, intelligent and compassionate about her journalism into beautiful storytelling. I was gripped from the start. The characters dance off the page, and she took me into the hearts of others people lives, tragedies and adventures.
Dec 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I must say Jill McGivering's novel, "The Last Kestrel" has ticked all the boxes for a great novel. I noticed that this is her first novel and, boy did she do an amazing job- she deserves my 5 stars.
The paperback book got me hooked at the beginning when Jalil, the Afghanistan translator was led out in the desert and shot in the head by a killer whom later in the end,was found to be *******.

Though the characters are fictitious, you gradually get carried away by each character's personality, and yo
Marcia Davies
Mar 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Through a delicate weaving of the intricate realities in Afghanistan, Jill McGivering's debut novel draws a route of love, sacrifices and idealism. There is enough action and suspense from the first page onwards, and the book is one not be be put aside.
Instead of an impersonal report or a bias constructed paradigm, her tale is one of fully developed characters with difficult choices to make. Secrets better untold develop their own bodies and can no longer be contained. Every page is a crossroad
Mar 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was mesmerized by this dark, gritty, utterly gripping novel about Afghanistan. Couldn't put it down for the last 150 pages or so, as it headed in an unexpected direction toward an ending that was richer for being anything but simple. Most of the story is told through the eyes of a celebrated British foreign correspondent, with descriptive flair that brings the landscape almost uncomfortably close at hand. But the sections that are told from the point of view of an Afghan mother are equally viv ...more
Sep 15, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
a compassionate look at how two women's lives have been affected by the war in Afghanistan.
Sep 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A debut book and I am eagerly awaiting the follow up.
Jasmine Whitmire
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly engaging novel I couldn't put down.

In Jill McGiverings engaging novel she draws the reader into a poignant story bringing two cultures together. Senior VP Foreign News Correspondent with the BBC, McGivering has spent time in Afghanistan and using the knowledge she has gained in the telling of this tale.

War correspondent Ellen Thomas is on assignment in Helmand Province one of Afghanistan’s many dangerous locations. She has two separate agendas on this trip; investigate the murder of
Aug 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I knew when I purchased The Last Kestrel that its author was a BBC journalist who had spent some time in Afghanistan, and I knew that's where the novel was set. I was therefore expecting it to be well written, and to have a degree of authenticity. I wasn't disappointed on either front.

The Last Kestrel is tight and engaging throughout. The story was a good one, and I did greatly appreciate its moral ambiguity - most (but not all) of the characters can be classified as 'good' or 'bad', although I
Jul 19, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The Last Kestrel is a novel set around the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The story is told from the perspectives of its two main characters; Ellen and Hasina. Ellen Thomas is a British journalist who has returned to Afghanistan to uncover the truth about events leading to the death of her former translator. Hasina is a happily married Afghan woman who will do anything in her power to protect her one and only son. A chain reaction of events causes these women to come together and eventually unite i ...more
Meneesha Govender
Ellen Thomas is a journalist who returns to Afghanistan to uncover the truth behind the death of her former translator.
Hasina is determined to to keep her family together. Her only son has joined the underground fighters. She will give her life to keep him safe and uphold the family honour.
Thrown together by the circumstances of war, they soon find themselves unlikely allies - both determined to achieve their goals and prepared to help each other in ensuring this.
As they soldier on in their ques
Mar 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The blurb compares this to The Kite runner - why? Just because it is set in Afghanistan? Nothing like it, or the equally moving Thousand Splendid suns.

I did enjoy the challenge of the descriptive emersion into the sand, dirt, smells and furnace-like heat of rural Afghanistan. It was gripping and i read it in a day (when I was off work poorly!) but more as an adventure book. The writing was good but I felt more a journalistic recounting than an in depth exploration of character which is what I a
Karin Bartimole
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: If you liked the Kite Runner
I haven't read many contemporary war novels. I feel too heart broken about the wars in the middle east, and all the losses that have occurred there, on every level. When I read the jacket cover of this book I thought I would give it a try, as the main character is a journalist, and a woman, embedded with the troops. It still had many moments for me, but I was drawn into the investigation she was undertaking, of the murder of her Afghani friend and translator.

In an adjacent story line, we follow
Diane S ☔
Apr 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How little we actually know about what is going on in Afghanistan. McGivering does an impressive job in this her first novel, using two strong willed women on different sides of the conflict in giving the reader a firm picture of our differences as well as our commonalities. One is a Afghanie mother who will do anything to keep her son safe and the other is a war journalist who reports on the conflict and is determined to find out how and who killed her translator. Also shows how far apart our c ...more
Aug 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Elli by: Diane
Shelves: afghanistan, war
War has been part of living in Afghanistan for a long time. The people are geared to survival on a number of levels. How they measure and respond is quite different from how a western raised person might expect. The book familiarizes the reader with a number of characters in a number of positions. The clashes are extreme and the degree of truth of the information is never dependable. Heroes become traitors in the blink of an eyelash. Also friends become enemies. Or could that be true anywhere in ...more
Ineke van Mackelenbergh
Despite the story being beautifully written with excellent insider knowledge of the situation(s) locally, I cannot say that I was totally mesmerised by the storyline in that I thought it was slow and took a really long while to 'get going' or even to 'get to the point'. Perhaps the author didn't mean for there to be an actual 'point' , other than making a wider audience aware of Afghanistan, give them a better understanding about shat is happening in that country and how the war affects all conc ...more
Apr 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-books-2010
This book is the tale of a Afghan woman trying to hold her family together against incredibly powerful forces, and her brief connection with a newspaper correspondent who has seen too much of war. There are no "bad guys" in this novel, yet people still commit horrible acts, made even more appalling by the fact that they're able to justify to themselves that they are contributing to a greater good. I think that readers who enjoyed The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns will also enjoy this ...more
Apr 08, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Just wondering why every book set in Afganistan is now likened to The Kite Runner? Ok, the scenery is the same but there the similarity ends. To my mind the biggest disservice a publisher can do to an author is boast "An impressive first novel ...that fans of The Kite Runner will love." If I hadn't been continually comparing it , and finding it lacking , I might have enjoyed it more. Yet again, I have read a book, set in Afganistan, that is nothing like The Kite Runner and nowhere near as good. ...more
Apr 18, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked the twists and turns of the story and the sympathetic portrayal of the Afghan families affected by war and tragedy in their country. Could tell the author is a journalist in her meticulous descriptions of village life and people, and the privations, heat and dust she herself must have experienced while with the occupying forces in Afghanistan. The people the journalist Ellen meets are well portrayed. But Ellen herself appears to be used merely as a means to tell the stories of the other ...more
Apr 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A British reporter is embedded with British troops in Afghanistan and discovers corruption and greed. This book is compared to The Kite Runner; however, I disagree. If anything it is closer to A Thousand Splendid Suns, but I feel it should not be compared at all. It is a well written book that took me on a trip to a far away land where I was able to experience a different culture and environment.
Feb 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
McGiverings details about life on the ground in Afghanistan, from various perspectives are shockingly vivid. I think it's one of the first books on the subject (although it's fiction) where I felt like I was beginning to be able to grasp the chaos and complexity of Afghanistan and the war there. This is a worthy read.
Jul 11, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

I got this novel after seeing it compared to The Kite Runner. Though there was a similar setting and as much if not more action in this story, I just did not feel as invested in the characters. They seemed somewhat one dimensional. Ultimately, I would deem this novel as a good first effort but nowhere in the league of Hossein in character development.
Mar 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book, written by a war correspondent, about Afghanistan describing the views as seen by villagers caught up in an ugly war, and by soldiers doing their best, but.

While being a novel very readable, it accurately describes and well the atmosphere, the distrust and incomprehension's on all sides.
Betty Dickie
Sep 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really interesting story about the war in Afghanistan. Author is a correspondent at the BBC, so should be accurate. She tells the story from the perspective of a British journalist and an Afghan woman trying to protect her son. Good pacing, plot, characterization. But most importantly, no glossing over the faults on both sides.
Jun 15, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a novel set for my Strategic Communications class at the academy. Some students argued portions of the book were unrealistic. I focused more on the descriptions of the landscape and people. It was an intense and detailed account. I would definitely read this again, and I recommend it as a stepping stone towards a deeper understanding of Afghanistan.
Deb Gascoyne
Jan 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd expected more from this book than I got. It was compared to the kite runner but I didn't feel it was anywhere near as good. Might have over rated it after having given previous book 3 stars- this WAS much better than that! I just felt that it perhaps didn't touch the surface of what is probably truly going on in Afghanistan.
Christine Terese
Apr 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I took a chance on this book picking it up a Costco before Christmas. I'm well into the novel right now; reading it on my lunch break at work and finding it difficult to put down when I have to go back to work. I leave the book in my desk drawer at the office...and find myself thinking about it on the weekend.
Aug 16, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2016
Subject matter timely yet difficult - story of a war correspondent and an Afghani woman whose paths intersect due to a quick decision with disastrous consequences. Ellen Thomas is a journalist returning to Afghanistan seeking a young man who had acted as an interpreter for her and who has subsequently disappeared. The circumstances of war create a story that will linger with me.
Yvonne Learmonth
Really enjoyed the first three quarters of this book. The war scenes were excellent. Made me realise how little I know about the war in the Middle East. Thought the tension at the end was excellent.
Not so sure about the ending and another family taking him in.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Hinterland
  • The Warlord's Son
  • Nectar from a Stone: A Novel
  • The Moonlit Cage
  • Travels in a Veil: A Journey Into The Lives of Islamic Women
  • The Wasted Vigil
  • The Reluctant Mullah
  • The Mulberry Empire
  • Mountain to Mountain: A Journey of Adventure and Activism for the Women of Afghanistan
  • Zen Under Fire: How I Found Peace in the Midst of War
  • A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice
  • Foreign Parts
  • An Equal Stillness
  • Witness the Night
  • Bride Leads the Chalet School (The Chalet School, #31)
  • Tatty
  • The Carpet Wars: From Kabul to Baghdad: A Ten-Year Journey Along Ancient Trade Routes
  • The Greatest Man in Cedar Hole
Jill McGivering has worked in journalism for 25 years. She is currently a senior foreign news journalist with the BBC having previously held the position of South Asia Correspondent (based in Delhi). Now based in London, she travels extensively for the BBC including assignments to Afghanistan and China. She has already written non-fiction, short fiction and plays. Her first novel, THE LAST KESTREL ...more
More about Jill McGivering...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »