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Birdsong (Vintage War) [Paperback]

Sebastian Faulks
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (622 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 July 1994 Vintage War
A novel of overwhelming emotional power, Birdsong is a story of love, death, sex and survival. Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman, arrives in Amiens in northern France in 1910 to stay with the Azaire family, and falls in love with unhappily married Isabelle. But, with the world on the brink of war, the relationship falters, and Stephen volunteers to fight on the Western Front. His love for Isabelle forever engraved on his heart, he experiences the unprecedented horrors of that conflict - from which neither he nor any reader of this book can emerge unchanged.

Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (7 July 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099387913
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099387916
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (622 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Readers who are entranced by sweeping historical sagas will devour Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks' drama set during the first world war. There's even a little high-toned erotica thrown into the mix to convince the doubtful. The book's hero, a 20-year-old Englishman named Stephen Wraysford, finds his true love on a trip to Amiens in 1910. Unfortunately, she's already married, the wife of a wealthy textile baron. Wrayford convinces her to leave a life of passionless comfort to be at his side, but things do not turn out according to plan. Wraysford is haunted by this doomed affair and carries it with him into the trenches of the war. Birdsong derives most of its power from its descriptions of mud and blood, and Wraysford's attempt to retain a scrap of humanity while surrounded by it. There is a simultaneous description of his present-day granddaughter's quest to read his diaries, which is designed to give some sense of perspective; this device is only somewhat successful. Nevertheless, Birdsong is a rewarding read, an unflinching war story and a touching romance.


"Magnificent - deeply moving" (Sunday Times)

"With Birdsong Faulks has produced a mesmerizing story of love and war... This book is so powerful that as I finished it I turned to the front to start again" (Sunday Express)

"Engrossing, moving, and unforgettable" (The Times)

"One of the finest novels of the last forty years" (Mail on Sunday)

"Amazing... I have read it and re-read it and can think of no other novel for many, many years that has so moved me or stimulated in me so much reflection on the human spirit" (Daily Mail)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
151 of 152 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How Much Can the Human Spirit Endure? 17 Jan 2008
I read Birdsong about 14 years ago, when it was first published in paperback; it must have impressed me because it stayed on my bookshelf rather than being passed on. This second reading has reminded me why I kept it - it has to be one of the most haunting novels I've ever read, and it kept me reading well into the small hours! The early chapters deal with a love affair in which the author so clearly recreates the sense of overwhelming desire and reckless behaviour that accompanies true passion. This, however, is only the start of Stephen Wraysford's story, for we soon move on to his involvement as a young officer in the First World War and this, for me, is what makes the novel such an amazing work. Knowing that the fiction was based on real events, together with the vivid descriptions, makes the story so very moving. It's not just a chronicle of events though, Sebastian Faulks is a master of detail, which makes the readers feel they're actually there, in the mud of Flanders - there were times when I too held my breath and envisaged how the fear must have felt. The penultimate chapter was so moving, it reduced me to tears and this, for me, is unusual! Reading and remembering the words of old men from my childhood, it's hard to believe that little more than 20 years later, man embarked on a Second World War and, after both those events, it seems incredible that man has still not learned his lesson! I would urge everyone to read this novel, and if you've already done so, then read it again!
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A deeply moving novel 16 Jan 2001
By A Customer
Birdsong is set during the 1st World War and despite being a story, its historial and geographical content is accurate.
It tells the story of Stephen Wraysford and the events that shape his life. Starting in pre-war France and moving on in time, it deals with Stephen's experiences in love and war. The novel incorporates Stephen's friendship with Michael Weir, a fellow soldier and also includes the stories of other soldiers that fight alongside them.
This is a graphic and detailed novel. Faulks describes in detail the events that these soldiers lived through on a daily basis. Despite the disturbing nature of some of these scenes, the novel is so beautifully and cleverly written that it is compulsive.
Faulks ties in the events of Stephen Wraysford during the First World War to modern life with the quest of Stephen's Grandaughter, Elizabeth, to trace her past and seek out what happened to her Grandfather. She does this when she discovers the journals that her Grandfather wrote during the war.
The novel is structured so that it moves forward and back in time and reminds the reader of the benefits we have today because of the sacrifices made by so many men.
It is a poignant and moving novel and one which brings home the realities and the true atrocities that the soldiers of the First World War suffered. Once read, it will never be forgotten.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not perfect, but a brilliant read 10 Jan 2005
I read Birdsong after seeing it in the Top Ten of the BBC's Big Read. I have to say for the first section of the book, about Stephen's affair with a married women in Amiens, I wondered what all of the fuss was about. I found the French characters, such as the Berards and Monsieur Azaire, in this section a bit stereotypical and, while the affair was well written, I was a bit unconvinced by some of the turns of events. The sections about Azaire's business just did not interest me at all, and some of the characters just grated on me. Its not that this section of the book is particularly weak, I just found that I struggled to get into the story at all, or to like any of the characters, and almost had to force myself to persist.
However, I am glad that I did stick with this as the rest of the book totally changed my mind. The descriptions of life in the war are very moving and many of the characters beautifully drawn. It really brings home the horror of war reading a book that is clearly well researched and that describes trench life so realistically. I did not like the character of Stephen in the Amiens section of the book, but war makes him into a more likable, mature person and you find yourself rooting for him and his colleagues to survive, and upset when many of them don't. The character's here are wonderfully drawn, very human unlike the unrealistsic heros of many a war novel who seem more like comic book heros. We see the weaknesses and fear of these men, and yet they become more heroic because of this than characters in other books.
The device of Stephen's grandchild looking back at events in the future works in how it helps to reveal the truth of what happened to Stephen and Isabelle in the long run, but it is not the most convinving or enjoyable element of this read.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Reading "Birdsong" is not an easy job. The novel is almost self-consciously literary at first and the romance that opens it is couched in terms that manage to be both explicit and prissy simultaneously. Erotic it may well be (it might even be sexy); affectionate it certainly isn't. The frost only starts to thaw when the narrative duties are passed from orphan, illicit lover and officer Stephen Weir to father, husband and trench miner Jack Firebrace. The rhythm Faulks establishes between Firebrace, Weir and a third character, Elizabeth Beresford, is the heartbeat of a novel that so desperately needs a heart to relieve its uncompromising evocation of The Great War and the alienation it causes in characters with little to offer in reply to its horrors. "Birdsong" could easily have been a confirmation of that observation by Wilfred Owen in "Futility" that the very existence of war is a nihilist argument, that if bored snipers will shoot casually at the shattered skull of a soldier long dead on the wire(as they do in "Birdsong")then we're kidding ourselves if we think humanity is worth anything. "Birdsong" could have been a confirmation of that, but Faulks' triumph is that it isn't. Despite or because of the horrors, it champions endurance (however pointless), understanding (however partial), peace (however facile) and love (however imperfect). To reach that kind of conclusion without a trace of sentimentality or compromise against the full blast of The Great War and what it tells us about ourselves is a genuine literary achievement. "Birdsong" is a great novel and I shall certainly read everything else Faulks has written.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Great if you like war stories
I started reading this book 10 years ago and was really enjoying it but for various boring reasons wasn't able to finish it. Read more
Published 20 hours ago by Nemo James - Singer Songwriter
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book
Beautifully written, moving, evocative and tragic. This book stays with you long after you have finished it. I cannot recommend it enough
Published 1 day ago by Janeymac73
5.0 out of 5 stars A work of art
A beautifully written, poignant novel, capturing the pathos and brutality of the Great War. Would thoroughly recommend to anyone with an interest in this catastrophic historical... Read more
Published 1 day ago by mike
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of my favourite all time books
Lovely book to read and the descriptions of the places and people was spot on. This is one of my favourite all time books.
Published 1 day ago by Ms Prem Singh
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book
Well written, however I thought a slightly weak ending. Hence four stars. Good use of different times in history. Moving
Published 2 days ago by Jerry
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book. Found it difficult to start with because ...
Great book. Found it difficult to start with because I didn't realise that it would jump to the 1970s and I couldn't place the characters. Read more
Published 2 days ago by Kindle Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Excellent book.
Published 3 days ago by Charles S Denholm
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
This is a fantastic book that really helps you visualise the First World War.
Published 6 days ago by Dorothy Holmes
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended Book.
Rapid delivery as promised of a classic book.Well worth the small cost.
Published 7 days ago by Dr RJP
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed this very much well written and lets the reader ...
I enjoyed this very much well written and lets the reader know what happend it trenchs and the destrouction of lifes.
Published 7 days ago by sharon patrick
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