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Set before and during the great war, Birdsong captures the drama of that era on both a national and a personal scale. It is the story of Stephen, a young Englishman, who arrives in Amiens in 1910. Over the course of the novel he suffers a series of traumatic experiences, from the clandestine love affair that tears apart the family with whom he lives, to the unprecedented experiences of the war itself.

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  • Paperback | 528 pages
  • 132.08 x 200.66 x 33.02mm | 430.91g
  • 04 Jan 2007
  • London
  • English
  • 0099387913
  • 9780099387916
  • 6,768

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Author Information

Sebastian Faulks was born and brought up in Newbury, Berkshire. He worked in journalism before starting to write books. He is best known for the French trilogy, The Girl at the Lion d'Or, Birdsong and Charlotte Gray (1989-1997) and is also the author of a triple biography, The Fatal Englishman (1996); a small book of literary parodies, Pistache (2006); and the novels Human Traces (2005) and Engleby (2007). He lives in London with his wife and their three children.

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Review quote

An amazing book - I have read it and re-read it and can think of no other novel for many, many years that has so moved me or stimulated in me so much reflection on the human spirit -- Quentin Crewe Daily Mail 20031022 This is literature at its very best: a book with the power to reveal the unimagined, so that one's life is set in a changed context. I urge you to read it -- Nigel Watts Time Out 20031022 So powerful is this recreated past that you long to call Birdsong perfect -- Sue Gee The Times 20031022 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 -- Andrew James Sunday Express 20031022 An overpowering and beautiful novel... Ambitious, outrageous, poignant, sleep-disturbing, Birdsong is not a perfect novel, just a great one -- Simon Schama New Yorker 20031022

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Review text

Faulks's fourth novel, an English bestseller, is his second (after A Fool's Alphabet, 1993) to appear in the US: a riveting story of love - and incalculable suffering - during WW I. What could become mere period romance is transformed, in this writer's hands, into dramatized history with a power almost Tolstoyan. Faulks renders love as compellingly as war - as in the opening chapters, when 20-year-old Britisher Stephen Wraysford, on business in Amiens, falls passionately in love with the childless and unhappily married Isabelle Azaire, nine years his senior, and steals her away. This is in 1910, and when Isabelle, secretly pregnant, suffers from overwhelming guilt, she abandons Stephen, returning to her unloving husband; six years later, Wraysford is near Amiens again, now as a Lieutenant (soon Captain) with the British Expeditionary Force, preparing for battle in what is to be the butchery of the Somme valley. Isabelle and Wraysford will meet briefly again - and both will be changed forever by the catastrophic war about to sweep over humanity, changing entire generations. Fauiks's depictions of war in the trenches - and in the mazes of deadly tunnels beneath them - are extraordinary, graphic, powerful, and unsparing. Stephen will survive to war's end, and so will Isabelle, though not before both are changed beyond recognition, and doomed not to be rejoined again. The war, here, is Faulks's real subject, his stories of destroyed lives, however wrenching, only throwing its horror into greater relief and making it the more unbearable. An ending too neatly symbolic can be pardoned, while a denouement describing the birth of Wraysford's and Isabelle's great-grandson - in 1979, when their lost histories have been ferreted out by a granddaughter named Elizabeth, the new mother - is so perfectly conceived and delivered as to bring tears to the reader insufficiently steeled. Once more, Faulks shows his unparalleled strengths as a writer of plain human life and high, high compassion. A wonderful book, ringing with truth. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Customer reviews


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by Claire

Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks

A truely remarkable book, mainly about WW1 war in the trenches. Harrowing narrative about the fighting that went on and the sights the soldiers were forced to endure, such brave men just discarded on the battle field of the Somme. The book starts off by introducing us to Stephen the main character a young man that hasn't experienced much love or affection in his life, is in France, he is staying with a family there and falls in Love with the wife. It doesn't work out and he becomes a father, but doesn't know, as his lover (Isabelle leaves him!) We meet Stephen again as an officer at the Somme. Other Characters are introduced to get a balance of perspectives with different backgrounds and ranks. The story also comes full circles as we get to know Stephens Grand-daughter, who investigates his past. An excellent read, harrowing but truely more
by Penny Cunningham

Powerful, moving and Great

This book did take me a little while to get in to, but once I did, I absolutely loved it!!! This book is soo emotional at times, imagining yourself as Stephen through this horrible, devasting Great War. Their were many times when I shed a tear for the main character and the experiences that he had to face and live on with. Birdsong has made me understand why War Vetrans, including my own Grandfather, never forget their experience during WW1 and/or WW2. There are so many more things that I would love to say, but I am too afraid that I will dwell too much into the story and spoil it. All I want to say is that if you do find the book a tad boring at times, all I can say is PLEASE FINISH IT! It will be an absolute waste to not know the more
by Christina