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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
4,6101221,036 (4.01)370
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» See also 370 mentions

English (119)  Dutch (3)  All languages (122)
Showing 1-5 of 119 (next | show all)
Birdsong is a novel that spans three generations but focuses primarily on Stephen Wraysford during World War I. It is a novel of love and war (as its title so aptly describes). Stephen falls in love and later finds himself on the front lines in France during WWI. Most of the novel follows his experiences in the trenches but interspersed with his story is the story of Elizabeth Benson who is living in the late 70s.
This was a tough book for me to read and rate. The book has some fairly graphic sex and violence, however since this essentially a romance set during WWI, it is appropriate. Overall, I didn’t really care too much for the romance (the early scenes of the book) and the violence was at times hard to deal with because it is very descriptive (albeit appropriate to really capture the picture of what these soldiers likely faced in the front lines). What I thought was brilliant, was the author’s accuracy in capturing the psychological aspects of war. I work with veterans, assessing and treating PTSD and depression. Faulks has a way of capturing how war impacts mental health in such a real way that I almost felt like I was in session with one of my veterans. This made the book hard to read at times and a fairly emotional read for me. I was most engaged by the portions of the book that dealt with Stephen’s experience of the war and was less interested in Elizabeth’s story although I felt like it was a nice way of wrapping up the storyline. ( )
  JenPrim | Jan 15, 2016 |
Birdsong is brilliant, and harrowing, and for once I felt a book with a modern character looking for a connection to her past really did a decent job with that element (although I see many reviewers disagree, and find that part of the novel distracting and dissatisfying). The action takes place in three time periods...1910, 1916-1918, and 1978. Most of the time, the reader is in the trenches, and more significantly under the trenches, of WWI battlefields with Stephen Wraysford, one of the young men for whom Hemingway and Stein created the concept of une génération perdue. Faulks has filled in for me what I always found missing in Hemingway...the hideous reality that took away those young men's understanding of "normal life", and replaced it with a sense of bewilderment and disorientation that could not be shaken off by a return to the world they left behind in 1914.

Review written in June, 2014
Read in conjunction with the WWI centenary ( )
  laytonwoman3rd | Oct 17, 2015 |
I enjoyed the bit where Isabelle catches some of Stephen's cum in her mouth, but otherwise I was a little unsure of this novel at first; but as the story went on it grew and grew in power. He has this way of giving you these little details, I don't know if he's imagined them or found them in accounts of the war, but they're amazing and made the whole thing feel real to me.

Interesting to see the similarities to The Girl at the Lion d'Or: the orphan, the slightly freckled woman, adultery and that massive metaphor of excavation mirroring a character's psychological condition. ( )
  Lukerik | Sep 19, 2015 |
My father recommended this to me many years ago and apart from a few key factors I don't remember a great deal. It is set during a war and a man is trapped underground and as to essentially blow his way out of the ground. Almost like Andy Weirs The Martin or Flight of the Phoenix it explores, in minute details, the movement of hundreds of pounds of explosive back and forth in a tiny place with little to no air with the view to a grand explosion/ Nice writing and I did not struggle with the pace or details, it just did not grab me by the boys and most war books do. ( )
  areadingmachine | Jul 6, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 119 (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
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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Wikipedia in English (2)

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
Stephen's passionate
Love affair with Isabelle,
Fights in World War One.
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 6 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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