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Birds Without Wings [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio Cassette]

Louis de Bernieres
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)

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Book Description

17 Aug 2004
Birds Without Wings traces the fortunes of one small community in southwest Turkey (Anatolia) in the early part of the last century — a quirky community in which Christian and Muslim lives and traditions have co-existed peacefully over the centuries and where friendship, even love, has transcended religious differences.

But with the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire and the onset of the Great War, the sweep of history has a cataclysmic effect on this peaceful place: The great love of Philothei, a Christian girl of legendary beauty, and Ibrahim, a Muslim shepherd who courts her from near infancy, culminates in tragedy and madness; Two inseparable childhood friends who grow up playing in the hills above the town suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of the bloody struggle; and Rustem Bey, a wealthy landlord, who has an enchanting mistress who is not what she seems.

Far away from these small lives, a man of destiny who will come to be known as Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is emerging to create a country from the ruins of an empire. Victory at Gallipoli fails to save the Ottomans from ultimate defeat and, as a new conflict arises, Muslims and Christians struggle to survive, let alone understand, their part in the great tragedy that will reshape the whole region forever.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product details

  • Audio Cassette
  • Publisher: Random House Audible; Abridged edition (17 Aug 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0739315471
  • ISBN-13: 978-0739315477
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 10.7 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (123 customer reviews)

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


"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) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

'Captivating and compelling. A masterpiece' Independent on Sunday --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
104 of 108 people found the following review helpful
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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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This book makes you think 29 Nov 2004
By A Customer
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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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best book I've ever read 20 Jun 2008
I don't say this lightly, but I think truthfully this is the best book I've ever read. Louis De Bernieres writes with such compassion, and so skilfully evokes the characters, setting and cultural mores of the period he's writing about that the story is compelling from page one. The characters are very likeable and human, and they become real as the novel progresses, so that it is almost painful to finish the last page and have to say goodbye to them. Having recently visited south west Turkey for the first time earlier this year I was stunned by the accuracy of de Bernieres' descriptions of the landscape and its ancient reminders of earlier civilisations. To my shame I was mostly ignorant of the history of this part of the world, so am extremely grateful to this book and its author for presenting its story in such realistic, sympathetic and human terms. The "history lessons" included in the book about Mustafa Kemal Ataturk are rather dry, especially if you hated history at school, but appear as short intervals in the whole, and reveal a charismatic and visionary character in the father of Modern Turkey.

Highlights of the book for me are in Karatavuk's memoirs from Gallipoli, the last reflections of the Greek philanthropist Georgio P. Theodorou, and the charming and convivial exchanges of the Christian and Muslim villagers living comfortably and respectfully side by side in the small Anatolian community in the early 20th century.

The imagery is stunning, both enchantingly beautiful- such as the marvellous description of Leyla Hanim's rooms, magically decorated for the romantic seduction of Rustem Bey complete with "roving" candlesticks - and graphically violent in equal measure, such as the disturbing memory which keeps a weary sergeant awake at night.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvel of a book 14 Aug 2006
By Ralph Blumenau TOP 500 REVIEWER
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars It is beautifully written and I couldn't put it down
This book helped me to understand modern Turkey and gave me some insight into part of the war I didn't know about. It is beautifully written and I couldn't put it down. Read more
Published 3 days ago by gad
3.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting
Very nice characters shed light on an era and area of the world that I knew little about but the stories of each character did not develop as much as I hoped, a shame as the... Read more
Published 13 days ago by Jonny Fuell
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book
An interesting book exposing the human oscillations of life and the disastrous ridiculous nature of religious belief.
Our belief is strong for it can and does destroy.
Published 15 days ago by Peter Antony
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
If you loved Captain Correlli you would love this. As always it is well crafted combines both fact and fiction telling the story of a Turkish village before the Greeks were... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Mrs S K Cook
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard work but worth the effort!
I don't find Mr de B's books an easy read but they are fascinating, utterly absorbing and full of local colour, both in space and time. This is no exception. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Grm.P.Oldgitz
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Great book and arrived much earlier than stated
Published 1 month ago by Spangles
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts well but gets lost in detail
About a period that was full of pain.
Paints a wonderful picture of a once multicultural region and how many people must have felt when the outside world blows away their... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Profr
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic epic - should be a film
This book is a must for anyone who is visiting/has visited or may posibly visit Turkey or Greece and wants to understand the people better. Read more
Published 1 month ago by MiggyF
5.0 out of 5 stars Heart wrenching
never have I read a book l
such as this. tears still fill my eyes

I wish. I had never read it, I will be haunted by its horror, yet immeasurably moved by... Read more
Published 2 months ago by meg
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
I was on holiday in Turkey when this book was recommended to me as the town featured was quite close by where I was staying. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Angel Reader
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