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Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
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Birdsong (original 1993; edition 2007)

by Sebastian Faulks

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,245None1,165 (4.03)312
Member:drachenbraut23
Title:Birdsong
Authors:Sebastian Faulks
Info:Vintage (2007), Edition: New edition, Paperback, 528 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:1001 Books, Contemporary

Work details

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks (1993)

1001 (54) 1001 books (50) 1001 Books to Read Before You Die (14) 20th century (52) British (42) British fiction (18) British literature (27) England (37) English (16) English literature (25) fiction (633) Folio Society (22) France (123) historical (55) historical fiction (190) history (27) literature (33) love (46) love story (14) novel (86) own (25) read (39) romance (62) to-read (114) trenches (24) UK (17) unread (31) war (176) WWI (465) WWII (21)
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» See also 312 mentions

English (106)  Dutch (2)  All languages (108)
Showing 1-5 of 106 (next | show all)

This book tells the story of Stephen Wraysford and the events that shape his life during WWI, the Great War. Starting in pre-war France and moving on in time, it deals with Stephen's experiences in love and war. It begins in 1910 when Steven discovers his first love. It's not so much love, however, more a young man's lust idealized as love. And, that, sadly, was to be interrupted by war. It will provide much necessary yearning for the young Steven who goes off to that terrible war.

The battlefield scenes are very descriptive, making difficult reading at times, as the reader is engulfed in the trenches and tunnels as if witnessing the carnage and the brutalities of War first hand. Stephen loses more and more of his innocence and humanity, and looks upon death as expected rather than feared. As his humanity diminishes in the face of the horridness of battle and the claustrophobia of the tunnels he finally experiences a resurgence of the will to live. Life, however, will be far different than what he imagined before the war to end all wars.

The only part of the book I didn't like was, that after reading almost half of the the book set in WWI times, the story flashes forward to 1979 and Stephen's grandaughter and her search for information on her deceased grandfather. While there was some interesting aspects of her story, I felt like it just didn't belong.

The book, though, is an admirable novel of WWI of which there are too few. WWI truly should have been a warning for the future but sadly.....we now have drones and a supposedly sanitized way of war. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning why we should abandon warfare. ( )
  m2snick | Feb 19, 2014 |

This book tells the story of Stephen Wraysford and the events that shape his life during WWI, the Great War. Starting in pre-war France and moving on in time, it deals with Stephen's experiences in love and war. It begins in 1910 when Steven discovers his first love. It's not so much love, however, more a young man's lust idealized as love. And, that, sadly, was to be interrupted by war. It will provide much necessary yearning for the young Steven who goes off to that terrible war.

The battlefield scenes are very descriptive, making difficult reading at times, as the reader is engulfed in the trenches and tunnels as if witnessing the carnage and the brutalities of War first hand. Stephen loses more and more of his innocence and humanity, and looks upon death as expected rather than feared. As his humanity diminishes in the face of the horridness of battle and the claustrophobia of the tunnels he finally experiences a resurgence of the will to live. Life, however, will be far different than what he imagined before the war to end all wars.

The only part of the book I didn't like was, that after reading almost half of the the book set in WWI times, the story flashes forward to 1979 and Stephen's grandaughter and her search for information on her deceased grandfather. While there was some interesting aspects of her story, I felt like it just didn't belong.

The book, though, is an admirable novel of WWI of which there are too few. WWI truly should have been a warning for the future but sadly.....we now have drones and a supposedly sanitized way of war. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning why we should abandon warfare. ( )
  m2snick | Feb 19, 2014 |
Overall, I enjoyed reading of Sebastian Faulks' "Birdsong." This is a really ambitious book -- a mishmash of romance and war stories.

Set in World War I, the sprawling book follows Stephen Wraysford, as he and Englishman who falls in love in France and eventually finds himself fighting with the English during World War I. The book spans the generations and comes together nicely in the end.

The book does have some failings-- Faulks' pacing is off.... nothing happens for a while and then everything rolls to a conclusion a little too quickly. But I found the story was compelling enough that I had a hard time putting it down. ( )
  amerynth | Feb 16, 2014 |
I've had this sitting on my To Read pile for many many years. A book that I feel I should have read... And now it's one of the Bardcamp plays I thought I ought to read the book first.

It's an engaging book. Slower than I'm used to (but that's because I read teenage fluff most of the time). I didn't know much about it, and so was surprised to find the love story at the start - I was expecting a book about war. Being a child of a mouthier generation, I am always slightly caught out by repressed love stories - their ankles brush, so he knows it is love. She is worried, so leaves him immediately and never tells him about his child. And obviously the 'he loses her and then ends up with her sister' trope always feels a bit strange. Maybe that is the point. War is horrific and makes people do strange things.

The war chapters are horrific. I have read a reasonable amount of gore in my life, but the author does not pull his punches. I'm not sure if I learnt much about the first world war, or was just reminded of a lot of things I knew already. Mud and sudden death.

One thing Birdsong does well is capturing that sense, both of war time and non fiction, that random things just kind of happen. There is a story and plot, and some central set pieces, but there's a feeling of not quite being part of a plan in the war, which reflects the chaotic lives of the soldiers well.

This book has one of the best descriptions of a religious experience - a sudden 'feeling at one with everything' - that I've encountered.

I wish I had time to read it all again and work out why it's called birdsong. The main character is petrified of birds, so it's not just a fluffy 'we get through this and it's dawn and the birds sing'

Also, it's a Babies Are The Happy Ending book. So if you don't like those, be wary.

[Having read the other reviews, I must be the only reader in the world who liked Elizabeth and the bits with her in. The contrast between Stephen's time and her time is powerful. She might be a bit too conveniently naive for the story, but particularly now we are 100 years away from the war, that didn't feel too unconvincing to me. And it is just nice to read about an independant clever woman making unconventional decisions that work for her. Although I do think the fact that her partner is cheating on his wife and having a baby with another woman is played down too much to make us feel happier for Elizabeth and him.] ( )
  atreic | Feb 2, 2014 |
Historical fiction is not my usual type of book but my friend gave this one to me for my birthday and after the first chapter i was hooked, i just had to keep reading on.
what can i say except this should be a classic. brilliantly written. bought me to tears many times. ( )
  sarahlou2709 | Nov 16, 2013 |
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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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Epigraph
'When I go from hence, let this be my parting word, that what I have seen is unsurpassable.' Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali
Dedication
For Edward
First words
The boulevard du cange was a broad, quiet street that marked the eastern flank of the city of Amiens.
Quotations
Madame Azaire had not fully engaged Stephen's eye
Last words
(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.
(passion4reading)
Brave soldiers digging
Claustrophobic tunnels. Trench
Warfare on both sides.
(passion4reading)

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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:44:12 -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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 7 descriptions

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