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Birdsong (Vintage War) [Paperback]

Sebastian Faulks
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (546 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
Price: 7.19 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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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.

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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 (546 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,602 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
141 of 142 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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38 of 38 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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82 of 85 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A powerful war novel 25 Aug 2004
This a such a powerful war novel.
I will justify this statement, not by repeating the things other people have said but through highlighting just one passage that really moved me.
This is when Michael Weir - Stephen Wraysford's closest wartime friend - goes home on leave to his parents in Leamington Spar. Weir has experienced death, squalor, disease, and utter degredation in the trenches. Yet his family cannot understand or respond when he tries to convey these experiences to them. It is beyond their imagination - as it is ours - that men could tolerate such conditions. Instead we see his parents treating him as if he has just been up to town for the week. They rebuke him, for example, for not telling them exactly the time he would be arriving. His mother fusses over him like a child: "You look a bit thin, Michael. What have they been feeding you on over in France?" You sense Weir's desperation as he realises that he cannot communicate any of the reality of the war to his family. This is so moving and heart-wrending. One can really believe that it was like that for so many men and their families when the war, for the British people, was "over there".
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14 of 14 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Birdsong by Faulks
Very good reading . Has romance, history ,nostalgia, etc. A well written and well chosen subject for a one hundredth anniversary
Published 2 days ago by J. White
5.0 out of 5 stars An extraordinary epic!
Set during WW1, Birdsong is an entrancing epic that immediately draws you into the story and captures your heart as it sweeps on through the life of Englishman Stephen... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Petal
5.0 out of 5 stars Bird song
Super book. Harrowing at times but full of drama and history. I was enraptured. A good read. Buy it now.
Published 7 days ago by Ms Linda Louisa Dell
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read
Everyone should read this book. The depth of feeling and the utter travesty of war. One can almost taste the atmosphere.
Published 12 days ago by elsie
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!
Birdsong is a superb read if you like the human stories around war. It feels accurate in every factual detail while also describing human suffering and emotions with the confidence... Read more
Published 14 days ago by Mrs J C Cooke
5.0 out of 5 stars Birdsong
I haven't given this review a title because I can't think of one that wouldn't sound trite. There have been very few books which I want to re-read as soon as I have finished it,... Read more
Published 14 days ago by JPD
5.0 out of 5 stars very moving
Reminded me of the stories I heard from my father about my grandad. Very touching and brilliant representation of life at the front
Published 16 days ago by Stefano Pardi
5.0 out of 5 stars informative
This book makes you realise the sacrifices men made in the First World War and how futile it all was .
Published 28 days ago by berylleivers
5.0 out of 5 stars Still amazing second time around.
My second time reading 'Birdsong' and it's a still a truly beautiful book. If you haven't read this give it a go, you won't regret it.
Published 1 month ago by C. Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars More than just a love story
A story of love, war and heartbreak.
Well written. Would highly recommend this book to anyone. Couldn't put it down.
Published 1 month ago by sarah
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