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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
5,3301461,351 (3.99)438
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)
Recently added bySerrana, Conor.Murphy, kmcw, DarrylLundy, vernaye, porgif, private library, TristanJohn
Legacy LibrariesGillian Rose
  1. 40
    Atonement by Ian McEwan (rrravenita)
  2. 21
    The Absolutist by John Boyne (NeilDalley)
  3. 10
    War Underground by Alexander Barrie (mabith)
    mabith: The true story of the tunnelers working during WWI, a little dated in tone but an excellent read.
  4. 00
    The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock (aliklein)
  5. 00
    The First Day on the Somme by Martin Middlebrook (Polaris-)
    Polaris-: For anyone interested in an expertly told history of the background, preparation, and execution of the Battle of the Somme, as well as the aftermath, this will certainly flesh out a lot of the detail behind the central battle featured in Faulks' novel.
  6. 11
    If This Is a Man; The Truce by Primo Levi (sombrio)
  7. 00
    Between the Sword and the Wall: a novel of World War I by Thomas De Angelo (Jan6767)
  8. 00
    Gifts of War by Mackenzie Ford (pdebolt)
  9. 00
    A Soldier of the Great War by Mark Helprin (PLReader)

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» See also 438 mentions

English (142)  Dutch (3)  All languages (145)
Showing 1-5 of 142 (next | show all)
What a moving, passionate, and heart-breaking novel. The author writes as though he's been through this kind of war, and knows exactly what PTSD and Survivor's Guilt is like.. and it's heart-rending and provoking. The war scenes are graphic, horrendous, and should not be skipped through. The very last chapter left me in tears. I am glad this novel is SO much more than the movie could possibly have ever hoped to show; it is a beautifully written literary masterpiece. I heartily recommend it. ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
A senseless slaughter of innocent lives, young men, brothers, cousins, family connections living in the same towns and villages, lined up at the front of water logged trenches waiting for the whistle and their date with destiny.

It is 1910, four years before the start of World War 1 and Stephen Wraysford, an industrialist from the north of England, is on a visit to a family in Northern France, in the small town of Amiens where an exchange of business ideas is about to take place. An intorduction to Isabelle Azaire, the wife of Rene Azaire leads to a passionate affair which has repercussions and for reaching consequences long into the future.

We move forward to the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the enevitable commencement of hostilities and a blood bath on a scale never before witnessed. Wraysford's command is that of a Lieutenant in charge of a small group of "tunnel rats". Their function is to infiltrate the German troops by tunnelling underneath their forward line, plant explosives, and in the resulting mayham, offer the allies an opportunity to advance. Given that the same tactic is employed by both sides there is little or nothing to be gained, apart from the inevitable sacrifice of human life.

Birdsong is one of the greatest books ever written and it has been a real joy for me to rediscover again 25+ years after it's debut. Not only is it a statement about the futility of war, war is inevitable it is endemic in the human spirit, but it equally it is a love story, the passion that can bind two people together nomatter the circumstances. Birdsong is a book of good and evil, of love and death, a momumental literary achievement of one of the saddest events in the history of mankind. ( )
  runner56 | Jan 23, 2020 |
In 1910, 20-year-old Stephen Wraysford is sent by his employer to Amiens, to observe the practices of the textile industry. While there, he meets Isabelle, and begins an intense love affair.

In 1916, Stephen is back in France, this time as an officer in the trenches of warfare, returning to the areas around Amiens - the Somme valley.

60 years after the end of the war, Elizabeth seeks to find out more about her grandfather, and his experiences in the trenches.

And so this novel is a book of three parts. The first section describes several months in 1910 when Stephen is staying with textile factory owner Azaire and his unhappy, younger wife Isabelle. There are moments of great writing, with Faulks drawing the characters of Azaire and his arrogant neighbour Berard superbly. Some of the other characters, however, don't feel as well-drawn, and parts of the story feel clunky.

When the story moves to the trenches, however, the quality of the story-telling makes a substantial change for the better. Though describing some horrific events, Faulks does not veer into sensationalism or mawkishness, but produces a moving account of the First World War, and the experiences and feelings of those who fought in it.

Alternating with the story of the war, is Elizabeth's story. Approaching 40, Elizabeth has a sudden need to discover more about her grandfather, who fought I. The First World War. In his introduction to the 2011 edition that I read, Faulks states that 'Elizabeth existed at first to ask questions for the reader and to satisfy a thematic requirement; that the past and the presents the public and the private, be shown to be interdependent'. Perhaps I didn't feel a need to ask those questions, because I felt this part of the story to be somewhat unnecessary. I did not engage at all with Elizabeth as a character, and did not really care about what happened to her. I speed-read through the sections set in 1978, itching to get back to the scenes set in 1916-18. The only moments I felt had any real purpose were Elizabeth's visit to the Somme, and to a war veteran.

Thankfully, Elizabeth's story is a small part of the book, and the bulk of the book is centred on the war. I must admit that I have never been particularly interested in early 20th century history, and have not had more than an awareness of events during the 1914-18 war. So I was aware of the high number of losses in the Somme, and the attitude the people 'back home' had towards returning soldiers. So Birdsong, something I read because it was a Book Club read, would or normally have been my book of choice. I am grateful that I was given reason to read it, because of the greater depth of understanding it has given me about the horrors of the war. As well as being moved, I felt angry at times: can anyone not get angry when they learn more about the poor organisation of The Big Push, that lead to completely unnecessary loss of lives?

I am glad that I have read this book.

( )
  TheEllieMo | Jan 18, 2020 |

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 | Dec 7, 2019 |
This is a book of WWI in Flanders. Within days of finishing it I spent a few days in Flanders, learning the story of this area where I realized how well this area of combat had been researched. I visited the cemeteries, and toured the tunnels in Arras that were so important in both world wars and gained a greater appreciation for the novel. While battles, strategies and the brutality of the war is faithfully told, the romance which serves as a frame for the story seems contrived as does the 1970s portions where a woman researches her ancestor. ( )
  steller0707 | Aug 25, 2019 |
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Sebastian Faulksprimary authorall editionscalculated
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.)
Disambiguation notice
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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.

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