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Birds Without Wings Paperback – 4 Jul 2005


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Birds Without Wings + Captain Corelli's Mandolin + Notwithstanding: Stories from an English Village
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Product details

  • Paperback: 625 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (4 July 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099478986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099478980
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (178 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,635 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Louis de Bernières is the best-selling author of Captain Corelli's Mandolin, which won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, Best Book in 1995. His most recent novels are Birds Without Wings and A Partisan's Daughter and a collection of stories Notwithstanding.

Product Description

Review

"A more ambitious novel than Captain Corelli, and a better one" (Financial Times)

"A mesmerising patchwork of horror, humour and humanity" (Independent)

"A magnificent, poetic, colossal novel... Superbly written... It is, in every sense, a sublime book" (Irish Times)

"His most serious and ambitious achievement to date" (Times Literary Supplement)

"Pleasurable... Like Steinbeck, de Bernières deserves praise for his imaginative sympathy" (Independent on Sunday)

Book Description

'Captivating and compelling. A masterpiece' Independent on Sunday

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 29 Nov. 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book. Hard going at times, but ultimately rewarding. If you loved Captain Corelli, this has many of the same ingredients: engrossing characters, minutely-observed village life, and a war that shatters everything. As ever with Louis de Bernieres, you have the sense that the entire book is painstakingly researched. Which makes it fascinating at times and treacle-ish at others. But, give it time. After 100 pages you won't be able to put it down.
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110 of 114 people found the following review helpful By Martin Greenwood on 23 Feb. 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a truly great novel. It is set in Western Turkey in the early 20th century and concerns the events surrounding the first world war, the break-up and eventual dissolution of the Ottoman empire, and the effect that this has on the everyday inhabitants of a small town.
The story opens in Eskibahce and we are drawn into daily life through a series of anecdotes and tales told through the eyes of its various inhabitants. As the book progresses, the scene is cut more frequently to the historical events that are taking place, and as the book reaches its climax, we find ourselves totally engrossed in the war: the geopolitical struggles, the nationalist politics, the struggle between Greeks and Turks, and life in the trenches at Gallipoli.
The book achieves a superb balance between its gripping description of the history and politics of the time, and its equally gripping personal dramas being played out in this context. It explains the great tragedy that results ultimately in the deportation of the Turkish Greeks, with its attendant destruction of whole communities, the terrible consequences to individuals, and even the break-up of individual families.
To call this an "historical novel" is to understate the quality of the story-telling. There is some wonderful narrative here: the book creates its own folklore, marvellous tales, funny stories, sad stories, shocking stories, all embedded in this steam-rollering march of historical inevitability. We also meet some marvelous characters, who become like old friends as they come back time and again to contribute their little piece of the story. And here is another beautifully-executed technique - the stories overlap, as told by different people and seen from different points of view.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Mark Meynell VINE VOICE on 21 Jun. 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Appropriately enough, I've just finished Louis de Bernières' Birds Without Wings while here in Turkey. And I have to say that it is quite simply one of the most breathtaking and moving novels I've ever read.

It's crafted on an epic scale (600+ pages), and has a fascinating dual focus:

- at the MICRO level, we get to know and love the many and varied inhabitants of Eskibahçe, a small fictitious town near the Aegean coast (placed not far from Telmessos, now called Fethiye)
- at the MACRO level, we follow the determined but bumpy path of Mustafa Kemal, as he forges the modern Turkey out of the embers of the defunct Ottoman Empire, becoming the father of the new nation, Atatürk.

The reasons for this parallel tale quickly become clear. The geopolitical machinations of the many nation states in the run up, course of and then aftermath of the 1st World War had a profound and tragic impact on the ordinary citizens of towns all over Turkey. Without this big picture, an understanding and sympathy for these individuals would be impossible. And the realities were brutal. For throughout first quarter of the 20th Century, this region faced appalling atrocities, ethnic hatreds and population dislocation. And the consequences are still being felt across the region.

De Bernières has sought to personalise all this - to depict the tragedies with human faces, something that fiction and/or social history can do far better than dull and lifeless statistics. Eskibahçe is a beguiling creation in which Greeks, Armenians and Turks live side by side as fellow Ottomans, almost despite their religious differences.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Aug. 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The first thing that strikes you is the wonderful prose, which, while completely natural and unforced, is poetic and descriptive.

The story, mostly told at a leisurely pace, is about a mixed Muslim-Christian community in Eskibaçe, a small hill-side town in western Turkey during the period from about 1881 to 1922, that is from the last years of the Ottoman Empire to the period after the First World War, when the Ottoman Empire had collapsed and modern Turkey was ethnically cleansed of its Greek-Christian population. We learn a great deal about the history of the region, (for instance about the little-known origin of the Turkish hatred for the Armenians), and the chapters about the villagers are interspersed with 22 chapters describing the rise of the nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal, somewhat irritatingly and unnecessarily written in the historic present, with the narrative (compressed where the narrative about the villagers is expansive) sometimes being far from clear. I think, in fact, that the novel would have been even better if the account of manoeuverings and intrigues of Turkish and international politics, overlong in the last third of the book, had been left out.

The early chapters describe the two communities living peaceably together, occasionally intermarrying, their children playing together, the imam and the priest being colleagues. It is a society with superstitious beliefs in each community, but with a large cast of characters who are painted with affection and humour - quite especially so the local Aga or village leader, Rustem Bey.
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