Birdsong is a novel about the tenderness and the limits of human flesh, about men and women living at the edge. Set mostly in France spanning the years before and during the First World War, it captures the drama and destruction of that era as it tells the story of Stephen, a young Englishman who is impelled through a series of extreme experiences, from a traumatic clandestine love affair which rips apart the bourgeois French family he lives with, through grim insanity of the Great War. In the vast scenes of suffering and the tender depiction of human love, Birdsong is at times almost unbearably too moving to read. Faulks has brought to it the same richness of writing and emotional intimacy that characterised The Girl at the Lion d'Or, but has widened the scope to produce a novel of moving grandeur.
Since its first publication, Birdsong has become a huge bestseller and one of the most popular literary novels of its generation. In 2012 it was adapted into an acclaimed two-part TV drama starring Eddie Redmayne.