Book Review: Birdwatching by Stephen Alter


Book Title: Birdwatching

Author: Stephen Alter

Format: Kindle

Published By: Aleph Book Company

ASIN & Edition: B09RFBSN5H & 1st

Genre: Fiction

No.of pages: 363

Rating: 5/5

About the Book:

When American ornithologist Guy Fletcher stumbles upon a dead body near Chanakyapuri, New Delhi’s diplomatic enclave, he does not realize that his life will change drastically. Soon, he is recruited into the CIA and sent straight into the heart of a secret war raging in the Himalayas.

Birdwatching by Stephen Alter

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Alongside him are his two unlikely partners—the enigmatic Captain Imtiaz Afridi of the Indian Military Intelligence, whom he meets on a hunting trip in Kashmir, and the mysterious but alluring Kesang Sherpa, who saunters into his world in Kalimpong. Their missions and emotions are inextricably entwined; the three must learn to trust their instincts and one another, to uncover what lies beneath the dazzling Himalayan snow. Set against the backdrop of the Sino–Indian war of 1962, Birdwatching is a gripping tale of high intrigue and mystery.

About the Author:

Stephen Alter is the author of more than twenty books of fiction and non-fiction. Wild Himalaya: A Natural History of the Greatest Mountain Range on Earth, his most recent work of non-fiction, received the 2020 Banff Mountain Book Award in the Mountain Environment and Natural History category. His memoir, Becoming a Mountain: Himalayan Journeys in Search of the Sacred and the Sublime, received the Kekoo Naoroji Award for Himalayan Literature. In the Jungles of the Night: A Novel about Jim Corbett was shortlisted for the DSC South Asian Literature Award.

Stephen Alter
Stephen Alter

Alter has taught at the American University in Cairo, Egypt, where he was director of the writing program for seven years. Following this, he was a writer-in-residence at MIT for ten years. He has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Fulbright Program, the East-West Centre in Hawaii, and the Banff Centre for Mountain Culture. He is also the founding director of the Mussoorie Mountain Festival. –This text refers to the hardcover edition.

What to Expect:

  • Expect an extraordinary story-telling.
  • Expect a story that introduces its readers to exotic birds.

Who Can Read:

Birdwatching is for every ardent reader who loves exciting and mind-blowing stories. This is a tale where missions and emotions take a significant leap in unearthing the truth parallel to the Sino-Indian war of 1962. As the story has the historical events included with beautiful narration, the book is for everyone.

My Thoughts:

Set among a dead body found near Chanakyapuri in New Delhi, an American Ornithologist accidentally stumbles, taking him to the CIA. The story then gets interesting with the introduction of Imtiaz Afridi from Military Intelligence. There is so much that happens in the story. Ah! Not to forget the beautiful bird names and the titles of the chapters. It was a wonderful time reading the book.

How is the Narration:

The narration amidst the layers of thrill and excitement is quite endearing and charming. Be it in Kalimpong or near the river, or on the roof of the building, the narration with its detailed descriptions captures the readers.

About the Characters:

No reader can refuse themselves without getting smitten by the intelligence operative Guy Fletcher. He is an ornithologist or a bird watcher; in simple words, he is chosen for a mission that is unknown. His experience is exciting to read. Likewise, the characters of Afridi, Thupten are as interesting as watching a great thriller. All the characters have been drafted with ample scope and excitement.

Writing Style:

This happens to be the most exciting thing to talk about. Along with the characters, as readers, we also travel by the socio-political terrain of the land and area. Many sub-plots run over the lands of Sikkim with the then political scenarios. There are mountains; there are monasteries; there are birds; there are military lands and many more.

Grammar & Vocabulary:

Extraordinary language with great vocabulary is used in the book. This is my first book by the author Stephen Alter, and I am mesmerized by his writing. The language used in the book is absolutely delightful. I wish to pick up other books of his.

What did I like:

1. The plot

2. The narration

3. The language

4. The layers in which the story moves

What Could Have Been Better:

The book is an absolute treat, and nothing can be complained about.

Entertainment quotient

The book, Birdwatching by Stephen Alter is a beautiful treat for all those readers who get excited when there is some spy action. Also, the story is set in amidst the Himalayas and the beautiful state of Sikkim, and many more treats.

Pick it if

  • You like history with fiction
  • You want books with rich language

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