Birdsong: outlet sale A Novel of Love discount and War online sale

Birdsong: outlet sale A Novel of Love discount and War online sale

Birdsong: outlet sale A Novel of Love discount and War online sale
Birdsong: outlet sale A Novel of Love discount and War online sale__left

Description

Product 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, Sebastian Faulks creates a world of fiction that is as tragic as A Farewell to Arms and as sensuous as The English Patient. Crafted from the ruins of war and the indestructibility of love, Birdsong is a novel that will be read and marveled at for years to come.

Amazon.com Review

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.

Review

   • "With Birdsong Faulks has produced a mesmerizing story of love and war... This book is so powerful that as I finished it I turned to the front to start again." -- Sunday Express 

   • "Engrossing, moving, and unforgettable." -- The Times

From the Publisher

Birdsong was voted one of the best books of the century in a poll conducted by Waterstone''s booksellers and Channel Four TV in the United Kingdom. Here''s a selection of the praise that has been pouring in:

"Birdsong moved me more profoundly than anything I''ve read in years ... A deeply compassionate, utterly thrilling work by a master of the form."
-- Frank Conroy

"The accounts of combat are among the finest I have ever read ... so powerful as to be almost unbearable ... a tribute to the author''s remarkable skill and tact and dazzling virtuosity."
-- Los Angeles Times

"An amazing book ... among the most stirringly erotic I have read."
-- The Daily Mail (London)

"Magnificent -- gorgeously written, deeply moving, rich in detail."
-- The Times (London)

"Superb storytelling and craftsmanship ... a tribute to the durability of the human soul."
-- People

"Vividly imagined ... this strenuous and poignant effort to shore up memory deserves our gratitude."
-- Newsday

"Superb ... a genuinely cathartic description of the war''s last days."
-- New York Times Book Review

From the Inside Flap

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, Sebastian Faulks creates a world of fiction that is as tragic as A Farewell to Arms and as sensuous as The English Patient. Crafted from the ruins of war and the indestructibility of love, Birdsong is a novel that will be read and marveled at for years to come.

From the Back Cover

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, Sebastian Faulks creates a world of fiction that is as tragic as A Farewell to Arms and as sensuous as The English Patient. Crafted from the ruins of war and the indestructibility of love, Birdsong is a novel that will be read and marveled at for years to come.

About the Author

Sebastian Faulks is best known for his trilogy of novels set in France: The Girl at the Lion d’Or, Birdsong, and Charlotte Gray, the latter two of which were bestsellers. After a period in France, he and his family now live in London.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

FRANCE

1910

Part One

The boulevard du Cange was a broad, quiet street that marked the eastern flank of the city of Amiens. The wagons that rolled in from Lille and Arras to the north drove directly into the tanneries and mills of the Saint Leu quarter without needing to use this rutted, leafy road. The town side of the boulevard backed on to substantial gardens, which were squared off and apportioned with civic precision to the houses they adjoined. On the damp grass were chestnut trees, lilacs, and willows, cultivated to give shade and quietness to their owners. The gardens had a wild, overgrown look and their deep lawns and bursting hedges could conceal small clearings, quiet pools, and areas unvisited even by the inhabitants, where patches of grass and wild flowers lay beneath the branches of overhanging trees.

Behind the gardens the river Somme broke up into small canals that were the picturesque feature of Saint Leu; on the other side of the boulevard these had been made into a series of water gardens, little islands of damp fertility divided by the channels of the split river. Long, flat-bottomed boats propelled by poles took the town dwellers through the waterways on Sunday afternoons. All along the river and its streams sat fishermen, slumped on their rods; in hats and coats beneath the cathedral and in shirtsleeves by the banks of the water gardens, they dipped their lines in search of trout or carp.

The Azaires'' house showed a strong, formal front toward the road from behind iron railings. The traffic looping down to the river would have been in no doubt that this was the property of a substantial man. The slate roof plunged in conflicting angles to cover the irregular shape of the house. Beneath one of them a dormer window looked out on to the boulevard. The first floor was dominated by a stone balcony, over whose balustrades the red ivy had crept on its way up to the roof. There was a formidable front door with iron facings on the timber.

Inside, the house was both smaller and larger than it looked. It had no rooms of intimidating grandeur, no gilt ballrooms with dripping chandeliers, yet it had unexpected spaces and corridors that disclosed new corners with steps down into the gardens; there were small salons equipped with writing desks and tapestry-covered chairs that opened inward from unregarded passageways. Even from the end of the lawn, it was difficult to see how the rooms and corridors were fitted into the placid rectangles of stone. Throughout the building the floors made distinctive sounds beneath the press of feet, so that with its closed angles and echoing air, the house was always a place of unseen footsteps.

Stephen Wraysford''s metal trunk had been sent ahead and was waiting at the foot of the bed. He unpacked his clothes and hung his spare suit in the giant carved wardrobe. There was an enamel wash bowl and wooden towel rail beneath the window. He had to stand on tiptoe to look out over the boulevard, where a cab was waiting on the other side of the street, the horse shaking its harness and reaching up its neck to nibble at the branches of a lime tree. He tested the resilience of the bed, then lay down on it, resting his head on the concealed bolster. The room was simple but had been decorated with some care. There was a vase of wild flowers on the table and two prints of street scenes in Honfleur on either side of the door.

It was a spring evening, with a late sun in the sky beyond the cathedral and the sound of blackbirds from either side of the house. Stephen washed perfunctorily and tried to flatten his black hair in the small mirror. He placed half a dozen cigarettes in a metal case that he tucked inside his jacket. He emptied his pockets of items he no longer needed: railway tickets, a blue leather notebook, and a knife with a single, scrupulously sharpened blade.

He went downstairs to dinner, startled by the sound of his steps on the two staircases that took him to the landing of the first floor and the family bedrooms, and thence down to the hall. He felt hot beneath his waistcoat and jacket. He stood for a moment disorientated, unsure which of the four glass-panelled doors that opened off the hall was the one through which he was supposed to go. He half-opened one and found himself looking into a steam-filled kitchen in the middle of which a maid was loading plates on to a tray on a large deal table.

"This way, Monsieur. Dinner is served," said the maid, squeezing past him in the doorway.

In the dining room the family were already seated. Madame Azaire stood up.

"Ah, Monsieur, your seat is here."

Azaire muttered an introduction of which Stephen heard only the words "my wife." He took her hand and bowed his head briefly. Two children were staring at him from the other side of the table.

"Lisette," Madame Azaire said, gesturing to a girl of perhaps sixteen with dark hair in a ribbon, who smirked and held out her hand, "and Gr?goire." This was a boy of about ten, whose small head was barely visible above the table, beneath which he was swinging his legs vigorously backward and forward.

The maid hovered at Stephen''s shoulder with a tureen of soup. Stephen lowered a ladleful of it into his plate and smelt the scent of some unfamiliar herb. Beneath the concentric rings of swirling green the soup was thickened with potato.

Azaire had already finished his and sat rapping his knife in a persistent rhythm against its silver rest. Stephen lifted searching eyes above the soup spoon as he sucked the liquid over his teeth.

"How old are you?" said the boy.

"Gr?goire!"

"It doesn''t matter," said Stephen to Madame Azaire. "Twenty."

"Do you drink wine?" said Azaire, holding a bottle over Stephen''s glass.

"Thank you."

Azaire poured out an inch or two for Stephen and for his wife before returning the bottle to its place.

"So what do you know about textiles?" said Azaire. He was only forty years old but could have been ten years more. His body was of a kind that would neither harden nor sag with age. His eyes had an alert, humourless glare.

"A little," said Stephen. "I have worked in the business for nearly four years, though mostly dealing with financial matters. My employer wanted me to understand more of the manufacturing process."

The maid took away the soup plates and Azaire began to talk about the local industries and the difficulties he had had with his work force. He owned a factory in town and another a few miles outside.

"The organization of the men into their syndicates leaves me very little room for manoeuvre. They complain they are losing their jobs because we have introduced machinery, but if we cannot compete with our competitors in Spain and England, then we have no hope."

The maid brought in a dish of sliced meat in thin gravy that she placed in front of Madame Azaire. Lisette began to tell a story of her day at school. She tossed her head and giggled as she spoke. The story concerned a prank played by one girl on another, but Lisette''s telling of it contained a second level. It was as though she recognized the childish nature of what she said and wanted to intimate to Stephen and her parents that she herself was too grown-up for such things. But where her own interests and tastes now lay she seemed unsure; she stammered a little before tailing off and turning to rebuke her brother for his laughter.

Stephen watched her as she spoke, his dark eyes scrutinizing her face. Azaire ignored his daughter as he helped himself to salad and passed the bowl to his wife. He ran a piece of bread round the rim of the plate where traces of gravy remained.

Madame Azaire had not fully engaged Stephen''s eye. In return he avoided hers, as though waiting to be addressed, but within his peripheral view fell the sweep of her strawberry-chestnut hair, caught and held up off her face. She wore a white lace blouse with a dark red stone at the throat.

As they finished dinner there was a ring at the front door and they heard a hearty male voice in the hall.

Azaire smiled for the first time. "Good old B?rard. On the dot as usual!"

"Monsieur and Madame B?rard," said the maid as she opened the door.

"Good evening to you, Azaire. Madame, delighted." B?rard, a heavyset grey-haired man in his fifties, lowered his lips to Madame Azaire''s hand. His wife, almost equally well built, though with thick hair wound up on top of her head, shook hands and kissed the children on the cheek.

"I am sorry, I didn''t hear your name when Ren? introduced us," said B?rard to Stephen.

While Stephen repeated it and spelled it out for him, the children were dismissed and the B?rards installed in their place.

Azaire seemed rejuvenated by their arrival. "Brandy for you, B?rard? And for you, Madame, a little tisane, I think? Isabelle, ring for coffee also, please. Now then-"

"Before you go any further," said B?rard, holding up his fleshy hand, "I have some bad news. The dyers have called for a strike to begin tomorrow. The syndicate chiefs met the employers'' representatives at five this evening and that is their decision."

Azaire snorted. "I thought the meeting was tomorrow."

"It was brought forward to today. I don''t like to bring you bad tidings, my dear Ren?, but you would not have thanked me if you had learned it from your foreman tomorrow. At least I suppose it won''t affect your factory immediately."

B?rard in fact appeared to have enjoyed delivering the news. His face expressed a quiet satisfaction at the importance it had conferred on him. Madame B?rard looked admiringly at her husband.

Azaire continued to curse the work force and to ask how they expected him to keep his factories going. Stephen and the women were reluctant to give an opinion and B?rard, having delivered the news, seemed to have no further contribution to make on the subject.

"So," he said, when Azaire had run on long enough, "a strike of dyers. There it is, there it is."

This conclusion was taken by all, including Azaire, as the termination of the subject.

"How did you travel?" said B?rard.

"By train," said Stephen, assuming he was being addressed. "It was a long journey."

"Aah, the trains," said B?rard. "What a system! We are a great junction here. Trains to Paris, to Lille, to Boulogne . . . Tell me, do you have trains in England?"

"Yes."

"Since when?"

"Let me see . . . For about seventy years."

"But you have problems in England, I think."

"I''m not sure. I wasn''t aware of any."

B?rard smiled happily as he drank his brandy. "So there it is. They have trains now in England."

The course of the conversation depended on B?rard; he took it as his burden to act as a conductor, to bring in the different voices, and then summarize what they had contributed.

"And in England you eat meat for breakfast every day," he said.

"I think most people do," said Stephen.

"Imagine, dear Madame Azaire, roast meat for breakfast every day!" B?rard invited his hostess to speak.

She declined, but murmured something about the need to open a window.

"Perhaps one day we shall do the same, eh Ren??"

"Oh, I doubt it, I doubt it," said Azaire. "Unless one day we have the London fog as well."

"Oh, and the rain." B?rard laughed. "It rains five days out of six in London, I believe." He looked toward Stephen again.

"I read in a newspaper that last year it rained a little less in London than in Paris, though-"

"Five days out of six," beamed B?rard. "Can you imagine?"

"Papa can''t stand the rain," Madame B?rard told Stephen.

"And how have you passed this beautiful spring day, dear Madame?" said B?rard, again inviting a contribution from his hostess. This time he was successful, and Madame Azaire, out of politeness or enthusiasm, addressed him directly.

"This morning I was out doing some errands in the town. There was a window open in a house near the cathedral and someone was playing the piano." Madame Azaire''s voice was cool and low. She spent some time describing what she had heard. "It was a beautiful thing," she concluded, "though just a few notes. I wanted to stop and knock on the door of the house and ask whoever was playing it what it was called."

Monsieur and Madame B?rard looked startled. It was evidently not the kind of thing they had expected. Azaire spoke with the soothing voice of one used to such fancies. "And what was the tune, my dear?"

I don''t know. I had never heard it before. It was just a tune like . . . Beethoven or Chopin."

"I doubt it was Beethoven if you failed to recognize it, Madame," said B?rard gallantly. "It was one of those folksongs, I''ll bet you anything."

"It didn''t sound like that," said Madame Azaire.

"I can''t bear these folk tunes you hear so much of these days," B?rard continued. "When I was a young man it was different. Of course, everything was different then." He laughed with wry self-recognition. "But give me a proper melody that''s been written by one of our great composers any day. A song by Schubert or a nocturne by Chopin, something that will make the hairs of your head stand on end! The function of music is to liberate in the soul those feelings that normally we keep locked up in the heart. The great composers of the past were able to do this, but the musicians of today are satisfied with four notes in a line you can sell on a song-sheet at the street corner. Genius does not find its recognition quite as easily as that, my dear Madame Azaire!"

Stephen watched as Madame Azaire turned her head slowly so that her eyes met those of B?rard. He saw them open wider as they focused on his smiling face, on which small drops of perspiration stood out in the still air of the dining room. How on earth, he wondered, could she be the mother of the girl and boy who had been with them at dinner?

"I do think I should open that window," she said coldly, and stood up with a rustle of silk skirt.

"And you too are a musical man, Azaire?" said B?rard. "It''s a good thing to have music in a household where there are children. Madame B?rard and I always encouraged our children in their singing."

Stephen''s mind was racing as B?rard''s voice went on and on. There was something magnificent about the way Madame Azaire turned this absurd man aside. He was only a small-town bully, it was true, but he was clearly used to having his own way.

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4.2 out of 54.2 out of 5
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Top reviews from the United States

Stephanie
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
I didn’t know that much about it but a trusted source recommended it. I jumped in with both feet and ...
Reviewed in the United States on September 19, 2016
I was swept up in this book from the moment I started it. I didn’t know that much about it but a trusted source recommended it. I jumped in with both feet and got lost in it. It’s sensual and romantic, then heartbreakingly depressing as the story moves from a love affair in... See more
I was swept up in this book from the moment I started it. I didn’t know that much about it but a trusted source recommended it. I jumped in with both feet and got lost in it. It’s sensual and romantic, then heartbreakingly depressing as the story moves from a love affair in a French town to the battlefields of World War I. The writing pulls you along and you struggle with the hero every step of the way.

Stephen Wraysford is the hero but he’s a bit of an anti-hero. He’s young and passionate. He’s weird and quiet. He loses his passion throughout the war but works hard to do his job, and job that would be difficult for most people to fathom performing unless they were there themselves. The author writes with such emotion and leads you to believe that he really was there on the battlefields and in the trenches. The dramatic tension is amped up by anyone who knows World War I history. The reader who knows which battles are coming up will be struck with a particular horror, knowing the ending before the characters do.

I had a problem with the end of the book that keeps me from giving it five stars. And I really wanted to give it five stars. Not the ending itself; I’m satisfied with how the plot tied itself up. But the last couple of paragraphs. The point-of-view changed to a character that I don’t feel deserved it.

For me, this was a summer read for lazy afternoons in the hot sun, but it’s definitely worth reading anytime. Love, war, and history, it will appeal to many.
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aPriL does feral sometimes
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
The book is shockingly realistic.
Reviewed in the United States on October 30, 2014
I recommend reading ''Birdsong'', but it will not suit some readers, particularly since it has what felt to me stapled on sections which will appeal to diametrically opposite genre fans. It consists of seven parts: 1910 France, 1978 England, 1917 France, 1978 England, 1918... See more
I recommend reading ''Birdsong'', but it will not suit some readers, particularly since it has what felt to me stapled on sections which will appeal to diametrically opposite genre fans. It consists of seven parts: 1910 France, 1978 England, 1917 France, 1978 England, 1918 France, 1979 England. It follows Stephen Wraysford and Elizabeth Benson - Wraysford in 1910-1918, Benson in 1978.

First, the spice!

It opens with a hot and heavy soft porn section, which might cause some sensitive Romance readers to be offended because the author dares to reveal the idea physical sex between adults involves genitals (graphically described); and some literary readers (like me) to feel the dialogue is terrible stuff, being unrealistic, exaggerated for dramatic effect, and too quickly intimate and candidly revealing for a developing love affair in an era of drawing room manners. It was a bit like, "Hi, I''m Isabelle Azaire. My husband is a boring lover and he is an old man of 40 that looks 50 with an aging body, but he is turning mean because he has decided our sex life is my fault and I''m bored with my life because I''m only 27 and although I love his children from a previous marriage it''s not enough. Want a cup of tea?" "Hello, I''m Stephen Wraysford and I''m an 20-year-old impoverished ex-con with no education, skills, family or money. Want to run away with me? I know you are the one from the first second of meeting you. I''ll love you forever." "How thrilling! You are the hottest thing in bed I''ve ever had! Let''s go!" Although the writing about how Stephen and Isabelle relate to each other is pure soap opera stupid, the rest of ''1910'' is beautifully written. The Azaire family and their best friends are vividly drawn. Wraysford''s innocence and passion are established, as well as the fact he is an honorable, normal youth whose indiscretions are based on his poverty and parentless upbringing.

I found the first third of the novel tedious, a two-star grade at best. But most of the rest of of the book is five star, no reservations at all.

Stephen was certainly in lust with Isabelle, he may even have been in love, fantasy driven as it was. (Men are much more basic when young - want eat now, want sleep now, want fast car now, want sex now... - ; ) If you satisfy their basic needs they will fall in actual love. For awhile.) It''s a fortunate thing because this incident in his life sustains him through what may arguably be the worst modern war of the Western world, even understanding that every war is full of unspeakable horrors.

Still with me? Sorry if that seemed harsh. I''m old, you know. Some of us turn sour after a lifetime of disappointments in human nature.

War can add depth to a participant''s understanding, or it can freeze everything in amber, like stopping time, so a war veteran might be a permanent 18-year old emotionally even when they are 50 years old. It can wipe out almost all emotion within a person, leaving behind only depression, misplaced rage and bad memories which overlay their lives forever. It can cause a permanent emotional numbing, a complete inability to enjoy or anticipate good things in the future. As psychology is well understood by the average Western citizen today, I know I don''t need to really describe these responses to you. However, the why war survivors have these problems we usually tiptoe around, not wanting to explore whatever horrors caused a person''s PTSD. This is not a lack of empathy or curiosity, this is self-preservation. Once war is fully experienced, whether in actual fact or only vicariously, it reduces the level of joy one can feel. Never again will the lightness of being that most children are born with will still be felt.

If you wish to experience as vivid and realistic of a war as if you were there, in the trenches of WWI in this case, Sebastian Faulks could not make it happen any more real than he did in this novel unless he hooked up a virtual reality chip directly into your brain. Parts 1917/1918 are the most fantastic war writing I''ve ever read. It''s incredibly awful and incredibly beautiful. The suffering, starving, lice and filth, the miles of walking and lack of sleep on poor quality food and very little water, the heat, the noise, the shocking deaths of friends inches from you, the blood and body parts - and it has no end, but continues for years and years. The pay is lousy and any second you could die, yet despite the continuous fear and stress, your brain must somehow be alert enough to do your job, when mostly all you want is to become dead without the pain. However, there is glory in knowing your fellow soldiers, their willing sacrifices for you, and the inexplicable bravery which is pulled out of you, as well as the amazing strengths you find you have in wanting to live when you had wanted to die a second before.

It''s all alive and real in the reading, as if you were Wraysford. He was not a fictional character while I read this. I was in his head, feeling his life.

Whew! I will not be forgetting this book.

Nineteen seventy-eight introduces us to a relative of the people we''ve been reading about in 1910, Elizabeth Benson. She is a modern woman of London and she has a mild desire for marriage because she would like to have kids. But she wavers at losing her independence. She has a great job and can support herself, which is possible because society no longer forces women to stay home. Her boyfriend is married with children and works in another country.

A series of circumstances leads her to research WWI and her grandfather''s service in France. She is almost completely unaware of the nature of war, but especially WWI is unknown to her. Her research becomes more determined as she realizes what an amazing thing it is what ordinary young men and boys went through, and never talked about if they survived, and what the war cost them in shortened lives and broken relationships, mostly unrecognized, unrewarded and forgotten.

If this book consisted of the 1917-1918 sections alone, I would be jumping up and down, thrusting this novel into the hands of all my friends pleading with them to read this next, please. But it had the pasted up and unconvincing section of Isabelle''s and Stephen''s affair, which frankly, had me almost abandoning the book. Benson''s sections were better, but I felt unnecessary to the story. In my opinion, I think this was a Great War Novel originally, but somewhere somehow a decision was made to increase its commercial value by adding a doomed love affair. Since the added-in affair and the genealogical search by a granddaughter seemed more of a naked play for literary readers who have been reading similar award-winning books with these same elements, instead of a heart-wrenching war story, I felt as if I were reading a clone, of lesser dimensions, of previous literary books built up with the same issues.

The title Birdsong is very cool and very likely full of meaning. Actual birdsong is a delight to hear, sometimes achingly so. It can induce the same feelings that hearing a distant train can. I had fun when I finished the novel, while drying my tears after the last page, trying to figure out why this awful romance gorgeous war novel had been given this title. Feel free to offer suggestions.

"Wilt thou be gone? It is not yet near day.
It was the nightingale, and not the lark
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear."
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warbler
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
If You Want Details Ab out the Horrors of
Reviewed in the United States on February 26, 2019
WW1, this is the book for you. Faulks describes combat in a remarkably realistic way, and since sappers are critical to this story, much of the horror takes place in underground tunnels. Yet the book is disappointing in some ways. The first part describes a steamy romance... See more
WW1, this is the book for you. Faulks describes combat in a remarkably realistic way, and since sappers are critical to this story, much of the horror takes place in underground tunnels. Yet the book is disappointing in some ways. The first part describes a steamy romance in pre-war France between Isabelle, a married woman , and Stephen. Then, by and large, Isabelle is a forgotten character and that''s too bad because much more could have been said about this bold woman torn betw love and commitment to an unhappy marriage. Most of the rest of the novel deals with Stephen''s brutal combat experience in the war. The brief chapters from 1978, as Elizabeth discovers her grandfather, add a nice touch. Still, after a while, the combat gore gets to be too much and I craved more about the romance gone bad.
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gewidmet
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A worthy companion to the poetry of Wilfred Owen
Reviewed in the United States on July 17, 2015
This beautifully conceived fiction is grounded in fact: it is the deep, explicit telling of the multitude of horrors of the battlefields (specifically, the Battle of the Somme) of the First World War, starting in 1916. The opening hundred pages, showing life as it was... See more
This beautifully conceived fiction is grounded in fact: it is the deep, explicit telling of the multitude of horrors of the battlefields (specifically, the Battle of the Somme) of the First World War, starting in 1916. The opening hundred pages, showing life as it was lived pre-war in 1910 (in France, by an Englishman), is no preparation for the start of the war, which is as it should be. There is no way to be ready for the wide range of death and destruction, of blood and severed limbs, of tunneling and guns, or of the males-only company that is the core of "Birdsong." There is a fine flow of the timing of mind-shaking horrors with some brief relief of pastoral description, short times away from the front, badinage between the men, and the main character''s flitting memories of full-colored, blooming love and romance. The tone for the short-ish passages set sixty years after the war is—appropriately—more direct, to the point, in chiseled prose. It is, however, the unalloyed depiction, in detailed, vivid exposition, devastating range of the hideous experiences endured by each soldier that prevails, and makes one ask: how can any of these men who survived actually take up the quotidian life ever again?
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Norman Hopkins
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Almost a Masterwork!
Reviewed in the United States on December 13, 2018
This author, Sebastian Faulk, has given us a powerful work of fiction that takes the reader into the trenches and tunnels, and, most importantly, into the mind of a soldier, of WW1. And I mean INTO! We experience, in excruciating depth what the protagonist experiences, we... See more
This author, Sebastian Faulk, has given us a powerful work of fiction that takes the reader into the trenches and tunnels, and, most importantly, into the mind of a soldier, of WW1. And I mean INTO! We experience, in excruciating depth what the protagonist experiences, we feel his fear, his anxiety, his determination, his losses, and his amazing resilience. We see, smell and feel what he does. In many passages, though we are compelled to read on, we also wish it all to end - much as I’m sure the real soldiers of that horrific war wished what they were experiencing to end. It is a rare gift when an author can do that with their prose. Yet the author’s skill is not limited just to how we live the trenches of the war. I found that he was able to adjust his style to the circumstances he is writing about. One passage illustrates this well: on a leave Stephen has in England, Faulks takes us into an almost hallucinogen state as he describes the countryside and Stephen’s near delirium where his exhausted soul finds beauty in nature and in the brief peace he finds. Amazing skill!

What prevents me from giving a full 5* rating is that the passages set in modern England, while well written, are not deeply tied to, nor are they as compelling as, the WW1 sections. I’m left wondering a little why they are there. The real meat of the book is in the war, and that part of the story is not, to my mind, particularly enhanced by the presence of those modern interludes. That said, I was glad of the relief from the intensity of the war passages those interludes provided. Perhaps Faulk needed to breath easier at times as he wrote, and perhaps he wanted to gives his readers a chance to as well?

I highly commend Birdsong as one of the finest pieces of literature I have read in quite some time!
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Barbara Horstmann
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Really Good but not a Page Turner I liked "Birdsong" very ...
Reviewed in the United States on April 20, 2017
Really Good but not a Page Turner I liked "Birdsong" very much, however, it was a book that I kept putting down and picking-up later to continue reading. It wasn''t so captivating that I couldn''t wait to see what happened next. Although it was highly... See more
Really Good but not a Page Turner

I liked "Birdsong" very much, however, it was a book that I kept putting down and picking-up later to continue reading. It wasn''t so captivating that I couldn''t wait to see what happened next. Although it was highly recommended to me by a friend, it didn''t pull me in as I thought it might. At this point, I''m glad I read it to get a deeper sense of how devastating WWI was for all parties involved. That was priceless information for which I am grateful considering the impact it had on our world and so many individual lives and families.
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C. IrishTop Contributor: Coloring
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
What It''s Like To Live In Heaven And Hell
Reviewed in the United States on December 28, 2011
My first foray into the writing of Sebastian Faulks took me to a faraway land in France. It begins with a bit of a love story when Stephen goes from London to France to learn the textile trade. Meeting a woman named Isabelle, he falls in love. Fast forward a bit to 1917 and... See more
My first foray into the writing of Sebastian Faulks took me to a faraway land in France. It begins with a bit of a love story when Stephen goes from London to France to learn the textile trade. Meeting a woman named Isabelle, he falls in love. Fast forward a bit to 1917 and WWI and we find our young hero, Stephen, fighting the Germans in the trenches in France. Firsthand I learned the ins and outs of trench warfare where young men were sent to march forward and forward bravely while bullets and mortar threatened their tender lives.

Gritty and realistic, if you''ve ever wondered what life in WWI was like, this book transports you to the front line. Have you ever wondered why a certain friend or relative refuses to talk about a war in which they participated, this book will tell you why. Crazy thing war, horrible, misleading, deadly and hellish but so many return again and again to the front lines and the action, and once more this book will tell you why. After the horrors of war and the things the young men see and do, society, love and life is never the same. It''s so very hard to connect with anyone else when you''ve been through it all.

Even though this book has a dash of love and a lot of war, it''s a tender story of a man who was orphaned when young and led a wandering life, he had a strong will to survive and to perhaps, feel love again.

While the mortars are going off, Stephen''s granddaughter in the future is searching for him as his story unfolds. His notebooks are all she has to go on and they are in secret code which has to be cracked if she is to know anything about this mysterious man whom she never met. And as his life unfolds, we witness the accounts of tunneling, and trench warfare of the first world war.

Highly recommend - for those who wish to learn about what has gone before and how high the cost of our freedom was.
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J. Jamakaya
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Better War Story Than Love Story
Reviewed in the United States on May 12, 2012
This is a very beautifully written and hard-hitting war story, based on the men who engaged in trench and tunneling warfare in France during World War I. I found the love story that complements it weak and less satisfactory. The first hundred pages of the book... See more
This is a very beautifully written and hard-hitting war story, based on the men who engaged in trench and tunneling warfare in France during World War I. I found the love story that complements it weak and less satisfactory.

The first hundred pages of the book introduce us to the lead character of Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman who has an affair with a married French woman prior to the war. The situation is a bit cliché-ridden, with the young man smitten by an attractive older woman who is abused by her husband. The character of Stephen, because he is the central character in the novel, is fully fleshed out, while the woman is pretty much a one-dimensional object of desire. Despite her situation, it was hard to get to really know her or care about her.

But the book comes alive as the story shifts to Stephen''s service as a lieutenant on the front lines in 1916. The writing becomes so much more powerful and purposeful. The scenes of battle and descriptions of injuries are gut-wrenching. Faulks creates an unforgettable cast of soldiers and miners who sacrifice themselves repeatedly in mostly futile attempts to out-maneuver the Germans. Memorable scenes include the men writing letters home and preparing on the night before the disastrous battle of the Somme, and a final, extended scene of men desperately trying to survive a tunnel collapse in the last days of the war. The war story, which constitutes the bulk of the book, is compulsively readable, so compelling it really is impossible to put the book down.

Then the book takes a clumsy turn into the 1970s to show how the granddaughter of Wraysford learns about his wartime heroics and love affair. These sections also seemed weak by comparison to the war narrative. It kind of feels like book by committee, with the publisher perhaps advising Faulks to include a more contemporary character to make the story relevant to current readers.

Despite my reservations, the bulk of "Birdsong" is so powerful and memorable as a war story that I still recommend it to other readers.
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Amy Buckle
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Review from Amy''s Bookshelf
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on September 17, 2018
For a long time I have wanted to read this book and its reputation definitely precedes it. I have to admit, it took me a long time to get through its 500 pages, but only because the sheer gravity of what Faulks was communicating was immensely powerful. The novel is mainly...See more
For a long time I have wanted to read this book and its reputation definitely precedes it. I have to admit, it took me a long time to get through its 500 pages, but only because the sheer gravity of what Faulks was communicating was immensely powerful. The novel is mainly from the perspective of Stephen Wraysford, an Englishman, who spends the years leading up to the first world war in France staying with the Azaire family, where he falls in love with a woman called Isabelle. The first half of the book is set in 1910, while the latter six parts swap between dates of the first world war and sixty years on in 1978-79. During the narration of the war we see Stephen now a lieutenant in the British army. Faulks depicts an honest and brutal account of what the men in the trenches had to go through, recounting the First Day on the Somme and the Battle of Messines, he doesn’t leave any details to the imagination. This morbid account is a huge contrast to the narration from the 1970s which reflects the indescribable difference between the first world war and a few centuries on; it reinforces the condemnable truth of how easily mankind can forget. Birdsong was written over twenty years ago but Faulks’s message is as relevant today as it was then and as I’m sure it will be in another twenty years. This intense novel is about love, loss and courage, but most importantly it is about how limitless human compassion and strength can be. Birdsong creates an unfaltering image of the undying and resilient force of mankind and ultimately reflects their unwavering hope and enduring courage throughout the horrors of the trenches. Birdsong proves that while the scars of war may run deep, the everlasting compulsion of love runs deeper. I struggle to find words to describe the phenomenal impact that this book has had on me, but I think Faulks sums it up fairly nicely: “I do not know what I have done to live in this existence. I do not know what any of us did to tilt the world into this unnatural orbit. We came here only for a few months. No child or future generation will ever know what this was like. They will never understand. When it is over we will go quietly among the living and we will not tell them. We will talk and sleep and go about our business like human beings. We will seal what we have seen in the silence of our hearts and no words will reach us.”
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MR W
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Death,life,death,transcendence,warfare,memory and masterpiece.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on December 7, 2017
I''d heard of this book years ago but never gave it much thought. My mum and father in law both recommended it and because of my growing interest in the Great War, I got the kindle version. From the start I was gripped, it''s equal parts love story ,war story and a haunting...See more
I''d heard of this book years ago but never gave it much thought. My mum and father in law both recommended it and because of my growing interest in the Great War, I got the kindle version. From the start I was gripped, it''s equal parts love story ,war story and a haunting document to the Great War and the fallen. At first I was sceptical about the time structure, which moves from a few years before the War, during the war and characters and relatives in the late 1970''s. This time structure is interesting though, as it allows the author to comment and bring in to focus his theme of the forgotten war. How the soldiers had a code of silence, never telling relatives or other people outside the military of their experiences and horrors. This has had the result of lost information and Faulks''s book is in part about finding and remembering these experiences before they are lost to all time.The book has moments of intense action and tension, the battle of the somme is very cinematic and reminded me of the opening of saving private ryan. Graphic and haunting, I recommend it fully.
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Joan
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
A journey in two halves
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on October 25, 2018
There are no words of which I am qualified to adequately describe this book. It gives a history from which all would benefit. The horrendous realities of lives made noble through sufferings and sacrifice are proof of the indomitable human spirit and, conversely the frailty...See more
There are no words of which I am qualified to adequately describe this book. It gives a history from which all would benefit. The horrendous realities of lives made noble through sufferings and sacrifice are proof of the indomitable human spirit and, conversely the frailty of human flesh; the stupid futility of war. The redemption of creation and the power of love are beautifully woven throughout this wonderfully crafted account - I cannot call it a story, nor a novel. The power of imagination and the profound desire of the author to give such an account of life at its extremes is humbling. This is my first exposure to the writing of Sebastian Faulks. I can only salute him, with gratitude for what he has given me.
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Donny Rock
4.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Attractive obsesssion with war
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on June 23, 2020
A long novel on the life of an Englishman who went to France on a work assignment and, for various reasons, stayed. his progress through WW1 is so well told as to be reminiscent of Henry Williamson''s accounts of life in the trenches, with the added ''excitement'' of the...See more
A long novel on the life of an Englishman who went to France on a work assignment and, for various reasons, stayed. his progress through WW1 is so well told as to be reminiscent of Henry Williamson''s accounts of life in the trenches, with the added ''excitement'' of the tunnels and their claustrophobic effects. The interpersonal relationships, both intimate and military, are very strongly drawn. This story of a man, his feelings, his relationships, his phobias and his post-traumatic stress disorder is absorbing. A strongly recommended read.
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Evered
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Life is for living not dying.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on July 3, 2018
Few books had me wanting to pick it up to continue reading like "Birdsong" did. This is probably the most graphic description of what WW1 was really like. Despite the gory detail of life at the front where very little actual gains were made by either side over 4...See more
Few books had me wanting to pick it up to continue reading like "Birdsong" did. This is probably the most graphic description of what WW1 was really like. Despite the gory detail of life at the front where very little actual gains were made by either side over 4 years, there runs through it a charming love story sometimes quite erotic. It is all held together by a time lapse which adds to the reality. Everyone knows of and remembers the millions of unfortunate young people (from both sides) who were casualties of the war but here is a novel which somehow combines insane carnage with a tender romantic attachment between two lovers in the same locality which was formerly a more idyllic environment. You cannot fail to be moved by the emotions experienced by the two main characters.
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Birdsong: outlet sale A Novel of Love discount and War online sale