Author: Alan Reynolds
When you have lost everything, how far would you go? What would you do to protect your child?
The war in Kosovo has already been relegated to the history books but in his debut novel Alan Reynolds reminds us of the brutality and futility of this tragic conflict.
In a powerful and moving account, we follow the plight of Katya Gjikolli an English teacher who is forced to flee her native village with her baby son after her husband had been captured by Serb forces and believed killed.
Echoing actual events, we are transported through the unforgiving landscape of a Balkan winter, sharing the horror of her brief capture and subsequent escape.
The flight to a squalid refugee camp in Macedonia and subsequent evacuation to the UK are vividly portrayed and we share her anxiety as she is resettled with another refugee and her daughter in a tower block in Newcastle. The story follows the two women’s differing experiences and how they cope with acclimatising to the new culture.
We learn too about the local population and how they are also trying to survive and make the most of their lives which become inexorably intertwined with the refugees.
When you have lost everything… you have nothing to lose.
The readers loved (LOVED!) your book… and were delighted to give you the Wishing Shelf Award. They loved the strong characterisation and the excellent way you put across life in Kosovo and Newcastle.
The Wishing Shelf
I absolutely loved this book, I found it so insightful about the war in Kosovo and the trails of families escaping. It follows Katya on a remarkable journey from fleeing war-torn Kosovo to safety in England, a beautifully written and well researched story of heartache and love, it defines the extremes that Katya went to protect her son. I highly recommend this book and did not want it to end. Joy
– Joyful Reads Book Club
One of the best books I have read in a very long time. I could not put it down. Great story that kept me gripped all the way through. I have already recommended this to family and friends. Can not wait to see if there is a follow-up to this story, i will be the first to buy it if there is.
– V T Lowe
This is a fast flowing and enjoyable read, revealing the lives of refugees that The Daily Mail neglects. It also provides an insight into the children of Thatcher, unemployed, dissociated from the state outside the lifeline that is social security when you are stuck on the edges of the so-called flexible labour market she created. There is also an interesting take on morality when people with no faith in the system take the law into their own hands, almost oblivious to the received moral base that creates those laws.
It is not War and Peace but it is a good British social realist novel in the vein of Barry Hines or Alan Sillitoe or early Somerset Maughan. It gets into the heads of the disaffected and the tale it tells ain’t pretty.
A very good read. Now to Zola for a refresher in high literature and fast tales. I recommend Nana as a story that resonates with this. Need I pay a bigger compliment.
– Michael Liggins
I have bought many books having read the review, ‘I read it in one sitting’ or ‘I just couldn’t put it down it was so good’ and I have been disappointed and thought the opposite! This book, however, was a very easy, enjoyable and thoroughly well written thought-provoking read and I found myself totally absorbed in the story not wanting to ‘put it down’!!. It is one of those, ‘read whilst you stir’ books which are the kind that cause me to keep reading even whilst I am preparing a meal. Well done Alan Reynolds on a story well told. I would like a library full of books written like this one about real people with real stories to tell about their lives and experiences.
– Sue Richardson
This book has all the makings of a television drama or a blockbuster film… Refreshing in that it gives the story from both sides rather than a gung-ho special services yarn. Some books I delete after reading, some I delete after a few pages and a few I keep because I know I will read the book again. This is one I will read again. Little more to say except excellent book.
– JD Blackburn
I Was travelling to Canada with a colleague last week and she said she just read a fab book and downloaded another from the same author. She said not sort of normal book she would have picked but she loved it… Guess what… it was Flying with kites! 🙂 The word is spreading around the world!
– Suzanne Wren
After reading Flying With Kites, I have bad news for all of my Indie author peers out there. The bar for getting a five-star rating from this reviewer has just been raised, and Alan Reynolds’ writing is the new standard to which I will now be comparing all Indie authors, including myself. I’m feeling up to the challenge, and I hope my Indie peers are up to the challenge as well…
I have a new favourite Indie author after I just finished reading Flying With Kites by Alan Reynolds. From the very first page, I knew this book was going to be different from many of the Indie books I’ve read over the past year or two. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed reading a great many books by my Indie peers. Most of those books have had extremely good stories and characters, and I can tell that their authors have poured their hearts and souls into them. But, more often than not, Indie books look unprofessional because of an abundance of typos, along with glaring errors with grammar and punctuation. It’s what keeps very good books from becoming great books.
Not so in Flying With Kites, where the writing feels polished and professional from the first paragraph. Alan Reynolds is obviously a natural-born storyteller, since Flying With Kites was written in a period of only three weeks in 2010, quickly developing a strong cult following after its release. Flying With Kites is the story of Katya Gjikolli, a Kosovan refugee during the 1990’s civil war in the former Yugoslavia.
The story documents her perilous journey through Serbian-held territory, being processed as a refugee, and ending up living in the squalor of a Macedonian refugee camp, before being evacuated and resettled in Newcastle, UK. If this book was only about Katya’s journey, it would stand on its own merits. But the author has cleverly woven Katya’s story together with a number of gripping subplots involving the existing residents of the apartment tower where she now lives. In the process, Alan Reynolds has woven a complex social tapestry for our reading enjoyment. In addition to its strong plot, the book’s characters are completely believable and psychologically complex.
The author does a masterful job of giving us insight, not only into the horrors of becoming a refugee, but also into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, existing social problems in urban centres like Newcastle, and the challenges that refugees face when trying to find a new identity in their new homes. In the end, the author brings all of his subplots together, resolving them in a way that left me feeling totally satisfied as I swiped the book’s last page on my eReader. But my short-lived feeling of satisfaction quickly evaporated with a masterful surprise ending that left me gasping for breath.
– Alex Jones – Amazon.Com
Reaching the end of an emotional read, I closed this book with goose bumps creeping on my arms…
On multiple occasions while reading the novel, I was on the verge of tears, if not already wiping them away. I grew very fond of the characters and became emotionally entwined with them in their struggles to survive. Survival is a common theme in Flying with Kites with each character coping as he or she knows how to best. The main character, Katya Gjikolli, a Kosovan English teacher displays admirable amounts of strength, perseverance and confidence to survive, not only during her escape to freedom from the brutality in the 1990s’ war in Kosovo, but also in starting fresh as an asylum seeker in her English life which she found in a Newcastle council tower block. Although I was quite young during this war, I recall that it dominated the news. This story of Katya and who she encounters brings a fresh, personal perspective to a harsh war that I doubt is a distant memory for those affected.
While there are accounts of violence, sex and drug use I felt that none are overly explicit and are often implied with just enough detail for the reader to fill in the blanks. With much insight into the personalities for each of the characters, there is a depth which allows the reader to believe they might be able to anticipate the character’s next move. Reynolds uses foreshadowing to a degree that left me turning the pages as quickly as I could read in order to discover the purpose of the hint–I did not feel that any of it is given away too soon. The use of dialects, food, clothing and setting descriptions as well as the use of all five senses created well-rounded and believable characters with a strong sense of place. The title imagery features as a backdrop alongside the storyline as a peaceful consistency and I believe that my high school creative writing teacher would be proud of the title: it certainly means more at the end than it does in the beginning.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting the author Alan Reynolds and learning some of the context to this, his first, novel’s creation. If I had not met him, I probably would not have picked up this book. I generally lean toward light-hearted non-thrillers, but I am so glad to have read Flying with Kites. I recommend this novel to anyone who likes to get their pulse up whilst reading, but also to any writers who want a solid character study.
– Molly Ovenden
I recommend this book… I read this book whilst on holiday and thoroughly enjoyed it. I couldn’t put it down. I would recommend this book
– B W Harrison
A great story, great read, just grab you towel, bikini, sun cream and your kindle, hit the beach with this great summer read!
– T Wise
You are the first writer I know to accurately describe the harrowing testimony of the victims of rape and war crime in Kosovo.
For my dissertation I was engaged in Human trafficking in Kosovo and I know that women there are very reluctant to report any violation against them because of the attached stigma. The research carried out for this book is evident, you must visit your character, Katya, place!
With the very best wishes.
– Fatmire Halili-Bunjaku
This is a story told without any unnecessary exaggeration and you want to know how it ends but are not prepared for the final twist, it is a really good tale and cleverly written.
– Tony Horton
“Your brill book went down a treat with family over New Year. We’ve now all read and enjoyed it. X”
– Sian Lloyd (our favourite weather girl)
The differences between life in the UK and in the US are brought to light by incorporating details that most authors overlook… Alan Reynolds takes the reader on a sweeping adventure that follows teacher Katya Gjikolli and her baby as they escape the ravages of war and rape through the forests of Kosovo to find new hope in England. The horrific scenes of destruction in the former Yugoslavia as well and the contrasting refugee existence in Britain came to life through this writer’s many literary gifts. Reynolds character development is superb and his plotting flawless. Expect the unexpected in this brilliant study of human character.
– Randall Peterson
It surpassed my expectations… Having read Alan’s most recent novel ‘Breaking The Bank’ I took ‘Flying With Kites’ on holiday in the hope of another excellent read. It surpassed my expectations and had me gripped from the beginning. So many reviews here already outlining the plot, so I won’t go into the same detail. I loved how Alan transferred his very detailed knowledge of life in Kosovo, into such a moving account of a young woman’s struggle to keep herself and her baby son alive.
Hoping there’s a sequel on the way… I Finished Flying With Kites by Alan Reynolds Brilliant read! I never stay up to this time reading, but was desperate to see how it ended. Loved it. – Heather
And 5 Stars from my Mum… Flying with Kites is a funny, shockingly, sexy, sad story which also has its more serious sinister moments relating to the brutal war in Kosovo which then moves on to a housing estate in Newcastle. (Probably just as tough a place) Maybe not! The characterisation is superb with nicely fleshed out believable characters that you will both love and hate. I loved Alan’s unforgiving writing style. I can’t wait for the continuation of the book and it would make a great mini-series or Brit Flick. OK on to my problems with the book. I had it delivered to my parents address and my Mother promptly stole it and wouldn’t give it back until she had read it. It’s a good job my Mum is broad minded because as I said it’s a funny, shockingly, sexy, sad story… did I mention drug dealing? The book is highly recommended by someone not easily pleased and loved by his Mother whose Husband (Grumpy Dad) is unpleased with the light being left on until 1.30am in the morning while she just read a few more pages. Well done Alan You entertained us both as well as making an enemy of my Dad ha ha!
– Clinton Yorke
The story left me with a racing pulse, jangling nerves and a real ‘want’ for a follow up book… Flying with Kites is an enjoyable read which touched every emotion in a roller coaster type way. A sad story which is also, shocking, funny, sexy and romantic has a serious side to it regarding the Kosovan war. The historical side to the book is based on factual evidence from news reports which if you are old enough to remember … you can! This makes the story very realistic and more interesting. The author, who through the experiences of the heroine Katya, brought me to understand what happened to women and their families and how brutal and terrifying war can be for all communities. Katya the Kosovan woman, wife, daughter and mother is at the centre of the story and through her eyes she took me on a journey from Kosovo to the Albanian/Macedonian border and finally to England geographically… but emotionally… to hell and back.
– Jacque Gerrard
This book has everything… I have just finished reading Alan Reynold’s Flying With Kites and loved it. It gripped me from the very beginning and was compelled to keep reading! The characters really come to life and I cannot wait for the next book!
– Sara Seastron
Loved this book right from the start…This was my first book reading about the war in Kosovo. The story of Katya who is forced to leave her war torn village with her infant son is both brutal and honest showing the authors knowledge and understanding of the Balkan war. The story follows her arrival to a tower block in Newcastle and her settling in the UK. I can’t wait to read the next instalment in the life of Katya.
– Liz McKay
“Just finished reading Flying with Kites. Brilliant read, thoroughly enjoyed it. Just waiting for your next publication”
– Sarah Knight
“What a great novel. Drawn in from the very beginning and was reading during daylight hours which means it must be a real page turner for me. I was sucked into the life of Katya and Milosz and the struggle and sacrifices to escape war torn Kosovo from page one. Her life and that of her friend Edi in Newcastle is so different to the one left behind. They encounter colourful criminal characters from Bigsy to Trev and all in between – some who care and some who take advantage – even the criminal fraternity have such differing standards. Would make a great film with Shane Meadows the perfect director for such a story – right up his street. Alan Reynolds you are definitely one to watch and I can’t wait for the next one.”
– Sharon Wells
“I loved the book. I don’t read much at all I tend to start a book and if I don’t get drawn in by the first chapter I give up. This one got me in the first few pages. I really liked how it starts out in her homeland and ends up in a flat in Newcastle, can’t get much more of a culture shock. I felt as if I knew Katya personally and could not wait to get to bed at night to find out what she was doing next. Really looking forward to the next book, what will Katya do?“
– Claire Setchell
“…a captivating read. The book is almost two novels in one book with Katya’s harrowing escape from a bleak war torn Kosovo being the first part and her coming to terms with a new life in a Newcastle housing estate the second… …I could not put the book down. Believable characters such as, salt of the earth “Bigsy” together with his mates and the deplorable “knob head Trev” and his disgusting wife. While reading I could see this being turned into a mini TV series with perhaps a younger Robson Green & Mark Benton playing the roles of the Geordie’s and Suranne Jones playing Bigsy’s wife Carol, it would work I am sure. Watch out for the bitter sweet ending, i did not see that coming!”
– Graham Knight
“…gripping… stitching together the dire troubles of Kosovo in the nineties with some similarly disturbing events in the UK as a couple of refugees find their feet away from troubles. Or do they? A dark start to the novel during the disturbing events of the former Yugoslav republic and the ethnic tensions develop into a tale of hope and new starts for two refugees. But all is not what it seems and events take a number of twists and turns as the author keeps us wondering where the novel is going next, and whether life really is better for the escapees away from the strife of their former homeland. There is humour, drama and tension throughout to keep you engrossed in this novel. I particularly loved the level of detail as the refugees settle into their new surroundings. I look forward to further instalments from this promising and entertaining author.”
– Jonathon Oxley