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Saturday, 14 March 2015

Sebastian Faulks - Birdsong

 Review written by Brian Lowen & read live on the bookshow on Thurs 12th March 2015.

A real saga of a story that stretches from the early nineteen hundreds up to the nineteen seventies.

The story circulates around Stephen Wraysford throughout the book and involves his experiences before the First World War, during the war and afterwards.

It starts in 1910 when Stephen is sent by the firm he works for in England to study the way dying and the weaving of cloth are carried out in France. He speaks fluent French so is able to understand the processes. He stays with the owner of a factory in Amiens – the Azaire family where he realises that Madame Isabelle Azaire is not happy in her marriage. He sets out to seduce her, they fall in love and run away together and live in the south of France.

After a few months, Isabelle falls pregnant but strangely, is afraid to tell Stephen and instead runs away to live with her sister Jeunne. Stephen is desolate that she has run away but does not try and find her.

The story then moves on into the middle of WW1 and Stephen is an Officer in the British army at the front in the thick of the battle. The descriptions in this part of the book are very lurid and you get

a good sense of what it must have been like existing in the trenches.
The middle section of the book deals with the fighting in the war and is not for the faint hearted. The descriptions are very detailed and you wonder how this futile war dragged on for so long. There are many experiences involving the miners – not soldiers in the army but miners called up to dig many tunnels from the British lines, under no man’s land and under the German lines where they would set off explosives. The problem was that the Germans were also digging tunnels the other way and could be heard by each other.

The barrages set up by the heavy guns lasted for hours and one can understand how so many suffered from shell shock, but this was no excuse in those days as they were shot by firing squads.

You really do get a tremendous feeling reading this book of the futile waste of human life during this war.

The final part of this book moves on to 1978 in England where Elizabeth is researching her Grandfather’s war experiences. She knows that he was called Stephen Wraysford but she wants to find out what sort of man he was.

A long, detailed story of lust, love and hope that really stirs one’s feelings. Do not read this unless you can harden your heart to all the emotional suffering in this book.

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