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Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks

Birdsong (1993)

by Sebastian Faulks

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: French Trilogy (2)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,745131988 (4.01)383
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» See also 383 mentions

English (128)  Dutch (3)  All languages (131)
Showing 1-5 of 128 (next | show all)
This is a classic novel which was recommended to me by my Mum. I really only picked it up because I had to take a book to English class last year and I thought this book would look good to my teacher. I started it in January of this year and the end of last month I decided to make myself finish it.

Plot: 3/5

Some parts of the plot of this novel I really enjoyed but some parts I felt the novel could have done without. I found the plot in the trenches with Stephen to be the best part of the novel. It felt like Faulks had a really extensive knowledge of what World War I was really like. The feelings of fear about going over the top and the constant unease of being so close to the enemy were easily felt and came across very strongly in the book.

The parts of the plot I didn't enjoy was the beginning about Stephen and Isabella's relationship. I just didn't find it very interesting and didn't find myself wanting to pick the novel back up while reading it. Also I didn't enjoy the parts with Stephen's granddaughter Elizabeth discovering things about her grandfather. Chapters of this were between chapters about Stephen and his time in the trenches. I felt this broke up the flow of the story with Stephen and it didn't really add anything to the overall story.

Characters: 4/5

The main character in this novel is an Englishman called Stephen Wraysford. I really like this character as I found him likeable in the beginning when he was in France, but I felt his character change when he entered the trenches just like many men's did. In the trenches he was a hard, cold character who kept all his emotions kept bottled inside because he didn't want the men he was commanding, to see how scared he was.

Other characters include Isabella, who Stephen has an affair with at the beginning. I didn't like Isabella as a character as I found some of the things she did to Stephen and the reasons she gave for doing them as not good enough. I did enjoy her story during the war as I found that interesting but I still didn't like her.

We also get to meet Isabella's sister Jean who sends letters to Stephen during the war and has a part to play at the end as well.

The men Stephen comes in contact with during his time in the trenches are a mixed bunch with many of his original friends being dead by the end of the novel, just how it was in the war. There were some so likeable characters that I actually felt a bit sad when they died.

Overall: 4/5

I actually kind of wish that this whole novel was just based in the trenches as I found this to be the most interesting and wouldn't have minded a whole book on that. I would recommend this novel to everybody as it is a classic and I think everybody should probably read it.
( )
  ACascadeofBooks | Oct 5, 2016 |
What a beautifully literate and lyrical novel. I absolutely loved this novel and will seek out everything this author has ever written! Best book I've read in the last 5 years! ( )
  Icewineanne | Aug 4, 2016 |
I re-read this after some 10-15 years (maybe more!) and was surprised to find how little I remembered. The trench warfare was vivid, as was the picture of the veterans in their care home, but little else seemed familiar.
Still a highly evocative novel, but slightly ambivalent at this read through; Stephen and Elizabeth are aloof, observing individuals that you may empathise with, but never take to your heart. Or perhaps that's because I am an aloof observing individual. I suppose it feels a bit like real life, it never quite turns out the way you thought it would. Still, for all that a solid 4 star read. ( )
  jkdavies | Jun 14, 2016 |
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks
4 stars


In 1910 the young Stephen Wraysford is sent to provincial France on business. He is boarded in the home of his associate where he falls in love with the man’s abused wife. Predictably, the affair ends badly. Steven, whose childhood was spent in an institution, is left with yet another vacancy in his life. When France and England find themselves at war some years later, the story follows Steven into the trenches. Just as the descriptive horrors of the war become almost too much for Steven and the reader to bear, Faulks introduces another story line concerning Steven’s granddaughter and her search for family history.

This wasn’t a comfortable book to read. The characters weren’t especially likable or admirable. The love story is passionate, but emotionally disconnected. Graphic descriptions of World War One trench warfare are far from pretty. The contemporary story line features a young woman who appears to have the same relationship disasters as her ancestor. I came close to putting the book down, and I still feel that there have been other authors who have done a better job of tackling the same issues. In an odd way, I think his symbolism is both too contrived and too subtle. I vacillated between finding an image to be excessively trite in one instance, to wondering with the next description whether he really intended a connection at all.

Still, I have to give it at least 4 stars. The writing is powerful. I’m still thinking about it a week after reading it. Clearly the author wasn’t trying to write likable characters or a comfortable story. It wasn’t a comfortable time. His characters are intelligent, but confused and trapped in lives that severely limit their choices. There is a lot to think about in this book.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |

Read all my reviews on http://urlphantomhive.booklikes.com

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you!

Perhaps I just read this book at the wrong moment in time for me. I thought it would be a great time, given all the events commemorating the start of the First World War. Perhaps this book just wasn't for me. I haven't decide yet which I think is more likely. But please let me explain why I didn't enjoy a book loved by many others.

First of all, I felt a bit cheated at at the beginning. It's said to be a novel of the Great War, but the first quarter of the book takes place in 1910 France. 1910! Years before the war starts. I understand you need to set the scene in peacetime (perhaps) or at least wish to introduce the main character in peacetime. But this is no longer an introduction, this is 25% of the book! Had it been a very interesting 25% book I might have been forgiving, but it's not. It's a sloppy romance and I can't stand them. I was actually just hoping for the war to begin, which says it all I suppose.

Then we move forward in time to 1916, and the story of the beginning of the war is very summarily given. Stephen was in France, but went back to England at the beginning of the war to help fight the Germans in the British army, and has since gained some ranks. The part about life in the trenches actually is quite interesting, but the writing felt a bit impersonal. This might very well be because Stephen himself isn't a likeable character and he seems to be detached from all that is happening.

Once again I got annoyed when the scene moved to the late seventies and I got information on people who were obviously somehow related (it's easy to guess this correctly) to Stephen in yet another sloppy romance with new characters I couldn't care for either.

These last two stories continue to be told in turns, one more interesting to the other, as the story builds to it's climax. But I was just happy to finish the book because I didn't really like the story and the characters annoyed me. All female characters felt extremely flat and without some kind of own vision. And sexually frustrated Stephen wasn't likeable either. Actually the miners were the only ones who I kind of felt for, and I did feel sorry for them... ( )
  Floratina | May 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 128 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sebastian Faulksprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davids, TinkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Firth, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Perria, LidiaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
West, SamuelNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Information from the Dutch Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
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'When I go from hence, let this be my parting word, that what I have seen is unsurpassable.' Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali
For Edward
First words
The boulevard du cange was a broad, quiet street that marked the eastern flank of the city of Amiens.
Madame Azaire had not fully engaged Stephen's eye
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English


Book description
Published to international critical and popular acclaim, this intensely romantic yet stunningly realistic novel spans three generations and the unimaginable gulf between the First World War and the present. As the young Englishman Stephen Wraysford passes through a tempestuous love affair with Isabelle Azaire in France and enters the dark, surreal world beneath the trenches of No Man's Land. (0-679-77681-8)
Haiku summary
Brave soldiers digging
claustrophobic tunnels. Trench
warfare on both sides.

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679776818, Paperback)

Readers who are entranced by the sweeping Anglo sagas of Masterpiece Theatre will devour Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks's historical drama. A bestseller in England, there's even a little high-toned erotica thrown into the mix to convince the doubtful. The book's hero, a 20-year-old Englishman named Stephen Wraysford, finds his true love on a trip to Amiens in 1910. Unfortunately, she's already married, the wife of a wealthy textile baron. Wrayford convinces her to leave a life of passionless comfort to be at his side, but things do not turn out according to plan. Wraysford is haunted by this doomed affair and carries it with him into the trenches of World War I. Birdsong derives most of its power from its descriptions of mud and blood, and Wraysford's attempt to retain a scrap of humanity while surrounded by it. There is a simultaneous description of his present-day granddaughter's quest to read his diaries, which is designed to give some sense of perspective; this device is only somewhat successful. Nevertheless, Birdsong is an unflinching war story that is bookended by romances and a rewarding read.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:45 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

Rootless and heartbroken Stephen Wraysford joins the army at the outbreak of World War I. He and his men are given the assignment to tunnel under the German lines and set off bombs. The comaraderie, love, and loyalty of the soldiers contrasts with the horrors of the underground, air, and trench warfare.… (more)

» see all 8 descriptions

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