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Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War (original 1993; edition 1997)

by Sebastian Faulks

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,6681281,015 (4.02)380
Member:Ash_Charlton
Title:Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War
Authors:Sebastian Faulks
Info:Vintage (1997), Edition: First Edition, Paperback, 496 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

Work details

Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks (1993)

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» See also 380 mentions

English (125)  Dutch (3)  All languages (128)
Showing 1-5 of 125 (next | show all)
This is one of those books I will never get out of my head. Anyone who thinks war is a noble human endeavor should read this. Faulks’ prose is so rich and vivid, you feel like you are there in the muddy, bloody, stinking trenches of the Somme with Stephen. I had to read slowly to 1) savor every word and 2) it was so overwhelming I could only handle a little at a time. I cried more than once reading this.

There are many love stories in this novel. The one I thought most compelling was the love that grew between Stephen and Jack Firebrace. The two men go through life and death and absolute hell together, you can’t experience something like that with a person and not be a part of each other.

Holy cow, I don’t even know what else to say but READ IT
( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
This book is almost three books -- a love story, a war story, a family -- ancestor search -- story, but when viewed as a whole, it is a story about a man who experienced love and the devastation of war. I read the first part of this book years ago on a trip, and then lost the book! I had picked it up in the airport on a lark, and wasn't paying any attention to title or anything but story, so I never found it again until just recently due to Goodreads. Glad I finally figured it out, because I really did want to know the story.

What impressed me most this time was the detail on the underground warfare in WWI. I don't think I have ever even read anything about this, so it was new and fascinating. Also, the writing is good; good story. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
A claustrophobic's nightmare. Trench warfare in WWI and the digging of tunnels are brilliantly described. ( )
  fromthecomfychair | Apr 8, 2016 |
***SPOILERS***

The writing is very good, if occasionally slow, but I enjoyed the style very much. I had researched this novel beforehand and was prepared for the differing time segments, which irritated some other readers.

France 1910: we are introduced to 20 yr old Stephen Wraysford and Isabelle Azaire, his mistress and their steamy romance. This section captures French society of the day very well. The erotic sexuality may be off putting to some readers, but is totally in context of the story. It did take me mildly by surprise.

The characterizations are well done throughout, especially so for the main character, Stephen. He remains enigmatic as his background story is slowly revealed. Stephen is a complex personality and at times I couldn't understand his motivations. A bit of a cold fish and selfish, he can be passionate and almost noble as well.

Faulks writes an excellent and heart rending description of the battle of the Somme. The emotional texture is rich. Stephen is still hard to penetrate but survives very damaged by his experiences.

In the England of 1978, we are introduced to 38 yr old Elizabeth. I found her a relatable character for the most part as she researches her family history.

The chapters on Stephen's final entrapment in the tunnel are fine and intense. This is for me, the best part of the entire book. The reader can imagine in detail exactly what horror Stephen endures until his recovery by the Germans (who are handled extremely well too).

The author does a good job of tying the various storylines together. The book does go on a little at the end, but overall, the novel made quite an impression on me and I highly recommend it. ( )
  Zumbanista | Apr 7, 2016 |
Love story set against the First World War in France.
  bowlees | Mar 6, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 125 (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
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
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 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)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 8 descriptions

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