If I am fighting on behalf of anyone, I think it is for those who have died Not for the living at home For the dead, over here What a beautiful and moving story Birdsong is a powerful novel, spanning generations and taking us through the horrors of World War 1 Split into mainly 3 sections we begin with Stephen a young man visiting Amiens in France, staying with a wealthy man and his family, the wife of whom he falls into an illicit love affair withI am driven by a greater force than I can resist I believe that force has its own reason and it s own morality even if they may never be clear to me while I am alive Further down the line we follow Stephen as he is enlisted into the war against Germany We see both the infantrymen and also the men who work underground, risking being buried alive in order to further their cause Faulks writing is truly outstanding, the fear and hopelessness felt by the men is made vivid and terrifyingly portrayedHe s frightened that it doesn t make sense, that there is no purpose He s afraid that he has somehow strayed into the wrong life The final section is two generations later, Elizabeth is researching her family history, looking into her ancestors, in particular her grandfather, who left behind notebooks of his experiencesI saw the great void in your soul, and you saw mine If I could quote this entire book I would It was powerfully affecting, emotional and profound 4.5 starsWe will seal what we have seen in the silence of our hearts and no words will reach us Which human being out of all those you have met would you choose to hold your hand, to hold close to you in the beginning of eternity Sebastian Faulks Birdsong is a kind of Harlequin romance with a literary slant All the elements for pulp romance are there romantic hero soldier, refined gentleman unhappy married woman romantic locale French suburbs, countryside numerous, gratuitous sex scenes I remember, horrifically, an excess of pulsating members and curtains of flesh At the same time, Faulks strives to give it some literary taste, which I believe he largely fails to do The time jumping between pre war, at war, and present day seems haphazard, and the present day revelation of Elizabeth Benson has the dull patina of a celluloid ending I think of present day Rose in Titanic, the end of Saving Private Ryan, etc the cinematic cheat of closing a tragedy by removing it from its era, neglecting the interceding lives of its characters what I hate about epilogues It is no surprise that Faulks was commissioned to ghost write an installment of the James Bond series Devil May Care Faulks writes for the cinema, but mostly he writes to the base male fantasies and mock Hemingway an masculinity that appeals to contemporary male readers sex, war, violence, camaraderie and friendship His attempts at literary effects fail him, and damage the pulpy material beneath HE is a plot author with poor plot pacing his attempts to bridge past and present day a connection which fails to entertain or convince , repeatedly stunt the built up momentum of Stephen and Isabelle s romance, and later on the gray violence of the battlefield.I look at the top quotes for Birdsong and find dull pulp and platitudes I know I was there I saw the great void in your soul, and you saw mine. Something one might find in a schoolboy s diary The prose, which is often flabby at the seams, is filled with my short phrases with faked originality and stunted aesthetics slipshod attempts are juxtaposing and reconciling the ugliness of war and the beauty of passion Something had been buried that was not yet dead. The novel abounds in clich from trite aphoristic turns of phrase, to the overall story very little strikes the reader as truly original or insightful The Brideshead Revisited inspired memories are stilted and unnatural, poorly executed If one is to read this book, one should only read it at the surface, for a war torn romance diving in deeper will only reveal the shallowness beneath the surface the smallness inside of a postured grandness. A very moving and haunting book It captures the horrors of the first world war in such detail that it will stay with me for a very long time. It s as if the author is writing from personal experience The way that the characters and the atmosphere are built by Sebastian Faulks is just amazing The reader is taken in to that atmosphere, and shares the feelings of the main character, Stephen You cannot fail to be totally captivated.Anyone who has served for any significant period in the Armed Forces will instantly relate to the use of black humour to cover the awful reality and horror Faulks also manages to reflect on how every aspect of life continues, perhaps in the background, as the war goes on There is a strong and emotive love story There is a very powerful understanding of the futility of war and its effects on everyone involved, regardless of national allegiance One of the most poignant parts of the book, for me, is the description of the feelings of the sappers as they tunnel deep below the battlefield, knowing that their counterparts are experiencing the same hopes and fears, only feet away through the awful mud and darkness Death is never than a split second away Note It makes it even personal to me as I was in the Royal Engineers Sappers during my military career I m happy to report, though, that I never had to get involved in the activity of sapping, or tunnelling. Having had the privilege of sitting with Somme veterans, listening to their vivid memories of the trenches and the contacts, and those friends who lost their lives, I can say, with great confidence, that the superb writing of Birdsong takes us as close to being there as is possible.A scene which, some may say, in the greater scheme of the whole book pales into insignificance but is still very well worth mentioning, is the extremely erotic, yet tastefully presented, first sexual encounter between Stephen and Isabelle, which occurs early on in the story There are other encounters throughout the book, but I found this to be one of the most sexually arousing pieces of writing that I have ever read It omits just the right amount of detail to allow the reader s imagination to run riot Amazing Every emotion is touched during the reading of this book.The title is evocative I found several reasons to entitle the book this way, not least Stephen s declaration regarding his feelings about birds and the reasons behind those feelings When you read the book, keep the title in your mind Seeking the meaning adds an extra dimension to your reading.It is a shame that it is not possible to award six stars to any book that I review, for Birdsong would surely deserve such an award This one definitely makes it into my lifetime favourite five.I would have no hesitation in recommending Birdsong to absolutely anyone, but most especially to any politician who is thinking about sending young people to their deaths in war.Footnote I was surprised that The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann featured in Sebastian Faulks s top one hundred books It sits right at the opposite end of the gripping to boring spectrum of reading to this magnificent work Birdsong is gripping. I have quite mixed feelings about this book While I found the sections on the war proper quite devastating and very well done, I also found the framing device of the pre war romance and present day life far less effective and also less well written My feelings may also be affected to some extent by other World War I literature that I have been reading as part of the Centennial over the past few months.I found that the frame story, actually a dual frame, diminished the war story tremendously In fact I wondered, prior to the war story beginning, whether I would want to complete reading the book.I ve read so many excellent books with the WWI group that did not bother with that kind of tacked on romance, etc It s simply not necessary And Faulk certainly demonstrated the skill to write a full book without it This made me wonder whether he may not have trusted his audience to come to the book But then I see how many others give this book top ratings and realize that I am out of sync with the majority on this book But I have no problem with that I was simply quite surprised when I read the it as my expectations were much different Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks is a moving, passionate, shocking, thought provoking and heartbreaking novel A novel that manages to create a passionate and erotic love story combined with the horrors of war Set before and during the Great War, Birdsong tells the story of Stephen, starting in pre war France and taking us right through the war and through a terrible period of history Faulks delivers a moving and shocking account of Stephen and his love affair and the trials and hardships of trench life and it seems as though at times you are seeing this all through the characters eyes This is a powerful novel, and certainly not for the faint hearted I read this for my local book club and I can imagine when we meet in February this book is going to make for great discussion.The battlefield scenes are so descriptive and cleverly written and at times make harrowing reading but the author makes sure you are in that trench and you are witnessing the vivid descriptions of carnage and brutalities of War I loved the characters and they are so well developed that I found they not only had faces but voices and I had such a connection with each and every one of them I learned so much from this book and I really enjoyed the story of the tunnellers, the descriptions of how both sides dug tunnels underground and lay mines under enemy lines was something that I had not been aware of and did some research on since.This is a book that will stay with me for a long time as it has all the elements of a 5 star read for me Its got the passion, the history and a great plot It has the ability to make the reader exclaim out loud and to remember a time when precious lives were lost in the name of war.I could go on and on but you just have to read it for yourself 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 Not until almost the end when my 5 star became a certainty, and not until shortly before that when my first tear came Yes, it was intense, as any book about a major war out to be the intensity in this book did not manifest itself only through the gruesomeness the wreckage, and the atrocity associated with the war, but the emotional struggles beneath the surface of ordinary human beings being pulled out of the reality of their otherwise ordinary, though not necessarily perfect lives.It was Stephen s story through and through even with the extension to his granddaughter Elizabeth 60 years ago Stephen made an entrance to the story as a compulsive and reckless young man barely out of boyhood The war reshaped him, and at the end we discovered along with Stephen himself, the will to live and the compassion to others that he never had thought he possessed Escaped from extermination, Stephen feared nothing any In the existence he had rejoined, so strange and so removed from what seemed natural, there was only violent death or life to choose between finer distinctions, such as love, preference or kindness, were redundant At a certain point, I was just as fed up with the war as the soldiers in the story Elizabeth s episodes were cleverly inserted by the author to provide me for the breaks like Stephen had during the war There were quite a number of memorable characters, Isabelle, Jeanne, Colonel Gray, JACK FIREBRACE, Captain Weir, Elizabeth s boyfriend Robert like Stephen, they are all conflicted characters in one way or another, yet felt so realistic and believable.Elizabeth s love story echoed her grandmother s but with its own spirals History Does Not Repeat Itself, But It Rhymes.This was my first book by the author, and my first novel with detailed coverage on WWI I know there are two other books in the trilogy After being so marveled by this one, not sure if I should pick them up. There s a love affair, so passionate, but yet illicit and at first I thought that this is what was going to get to me in this novel It did, but the most powerful, thought provoking thing about this book is what happened to the men in the trenches during WW I The gruesome, gut wrenching realities for soldiers fighting this war are told in phrases so descriptive that you almost wish you hadn t read them about the smell of blood, wounds and body parts, the claustrophobic, horrific conditions in the tunnels and ultimately what the men lose of themselves.There are friendships and brotherhoods that grow making for some moving and very sad scenes.The novel moves across years 1910, the war years 1916 1918, 1978 and 1979 Stephen and Isabelle s story came to life in the early parts of the novel, but I found it somewhat difficult to connect with Elizabeth s character as we meet her in 1978 I usually enjoy these past present stories that link but other than being family, I just didn t feel a real emotional connection between the stories Having said that, this novel is not one that I will soon forget 4 stars and highly recommended but not for the faint of heart. Birdsong More like Birdshit I may have given this book one star, but I really give it 20 piles of steaming birdshit I can t even contain the hatred I feel for this one It s just horrible Everything and I mean everything about it, is just horrible It starts off as a supposed love story between a young Englishman Stephen Wraysford and some French harlot named Isabelle But it s not a love story, it s a fuck story that includes bastard children, betrayal and whole lot of boring WWI shit thrown in After skimming through it just to finish it, my reaction was so strong that I threw it across the room and scared the shit out of my cats.