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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, grown-up love story.
In limpid, beautiful English Faulks describes the sights and events in a number of cities (New York, Washington, London, Moscow, Saigon) through the eyes of, and as a mirror for, the feelings of his protagonists, principally his heroine Mary van der Linden. The theme of the atmosphere of a place reflecting the passions of the observer has not been done as well since...
Published on 8 Jan 2002

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dull start but powerful ending
This book has far too much description and political comment, and I found myself skipping over large chunks to get to the ending. I didn't like either Mary or Frank, I have to admit, which as they're two of the main characters is rather a shame! However, I absolutely loved Charlie and the changes he goes through and wished there could be more about him. He's worth a novel...
Published on 30 Aug 2003


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enthralling, grown-up love story., 8 Jan 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: On Green Dolphin Street (Hardcover)
In limpid, beautiful English Faulks describes the sights and events in a number of cities (New York, Washington, London, Moscow, Saigon) through the eyes of, and as a mirror for, the feelings of his protagonists, principally his heroine Mary van der Linden. The theme of the atmosphere of a place reflecting the passions of the observer has not been done as well since Elizabeth Bowen, and the reader (well, this one, at any rate) is drawn in to and overwhelmed by the emotional conflicts of the characters. The writing, characterisation, dialogue, plot (and its resolution) make this a fit successor to Faulks's previous novels. I am not sorry to have to disagree with some of the previous reviewers!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, evocative, wonderful, 6 May 2003
I cannot believe the negative reviews this wonderful book has received. Perhaps I lack background, as this is the first Faulks novel I have read, but I thought it was wonderful. Evocative of the era, full of texture and vivid descriptive prose; I could intimately feel the cold air of Moscow, the cosy claustrophobia of Cold War America, the homely comforts of England... A fantastic read.
I for one would LOVE to see a film of this novel, if anyone wants to make it! So long it was exactly as the book, changing nothing (especially the wistful ending), and it would be a classic in the traditional 'French' film genre, IMHO.
Highly recommended, especially if you enjoyed books like 'Chocolat', 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin' and 'The Unfortunates', a real asset to the modern fiction lover's bookcase.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dull start but powerful ending, 30 Aug 2003
By A Customer
This book has far too much description and political comment, and I found myself skipping over large chunks to get to the ending. I didn't like either Mary or Frank, I have to admit, which as they're two of the main characters is rather a shame! However, I absolutely loved Charlie and the changes he goes through and wished there could be more about him. He's worth a novel of his own!
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1.0 out of 5 stars Very disappointing, 9 Oct 2007
By 
Like many other reviewers on here, I thought 'Birdsong' had some merit with its brilliantly researched and vividly painted WW1 setting, though I was left with the impression that he's probably a better journalist (his original trade) than he is a novelist.

I found this one a trial though. I have a personal policy of never allowing myself to leave a book unfinished. From time to time, I get to the final page and regret my Virgoan self-discipline. The historical context in this one is of minor interest to most people, unlike WW1 which seems to fascinate us more as the years go by and as family research leads more of us to want to understand the experience of our near ancestors. The story, such as it is, is painfully slow and less 'subtle' than downright dull. The dialogue is unnatural in the extreme, and his writing style is unnecessarily tortuous; I yearned for a noun that was not qualified by at least one superfluous adjective.

Read 'Birdsong'; don't let your Virgoan self-discipline get the better of you on this one, though.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You have to have been there..., 11 July 2008
By 
Te Stanworth - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
The book starts slowly and could be described as somewhat cold, or perhaps detached throughout - surreal maybe. However this provides the appropriate ambiance to allow the rest of the story to unfold and the characters to nestle. I did not find the characters two dimensional or the story fanciful and believe it or not the atmosphere created, no matter how dry and uncomfortable at times, is in fact astoundingly realistic. I am fairly sure that you can either relate to the subject matter and emotions conveyed or you cannot. This is a book that frustrated me to begin with, but I ended up vanishing into and had a hard time leaving alone after it was done. Those who put Birdsong onto a pedestal (yes, I loved this book)and regard it as a benchmark I would argue are missing the point entirely. It is cold at times; almost mechanistic. Characters are detached, fragmented, full of contradictions and at points appear irrational. But I can say from personal experience that Faulks' portrayal of the main plot is about as realistic as it is possible to get. Cliches are not necessarily a sign of inaccuracy, but in this case - as I read it - a very clear indication of the veracity of this book. Faulks has either been there himself or done very detailed in depth research to have been so insightful. This is far too well written to have been the product of a sharp mind and nothing more. I regard it as having much more in common with Human Traces than Birdsong. Both OGDS and HT are less 'comfortable' than Birdsong, which at times skates on the edge of parody and predictability, and to me represent even greater insight and depth. Getting there demands a lot from the reader; a lot of reflection and a willingness to engage absolutely. In short I regard Birdsong as brilliant but somehow less mature than either OGDS or HT. These two plumb greater depths, but are not nearly so pretty about doing it. HT could be regarded as lazy and soothing (sadly,some would say dull...)whereas OGDS has some of the same crispness unsentimental truth about it as Engleby. In this regard one could regard HT, OGDS an Engleby as having a gritty truthfulness that highlights a slight over sentimentality or romanticism in Birdsong.

Everyone sees love differently. Some have a greater capacity for it than others. Some balance passion with reason, whilst others cannot and don't wish to. There is much in the book that you just wont recognize unless you have been there, but for those who have found love and understanding in love that can only be described as existential, stretching the concept of self to bursting point, expect it to cut deeply. This book resides entirely in that last 1% of compulsive, passionate, at times irrational yet heartfelt, absolute need.

I would have given it five stars, only the first 50+ pages were a little hard work. Faulks is not only an exceptional writer, he also possesses exceptional understanding of humankind.

PS if you did not get on with Human Traces, which I regard as the best I have read so far from Faulks - this is probably not for you.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Where have I read this before?, 1 Mar 2004
By 
I find that Sebastian Faulks' books alway remind me of a film version of historical events, rather than giving an impression of "that's what it must have been like." And just like a glossy film by someone like Anthony Minghella, his books are enjoyable but not quite as profound as they think they are. Everthing is here for a snapshot of the sixties: jazz, cocktails, Jackie-dresses, sexy housewives, world-weary hacks... It's gorgeous, but it's a pastiche.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A novel and a historic account of a period together, 23 July 2001
By 
Marina Heck "Marina Heck" (São Paulo,, S.P. Brazil) - See all my reviews
This review is from: On Green Dolphin Street (Hardcover)
I really liked this book. The interfaces between fiction and history is very interesting. The way he intermingles the novel's characters and the political scenery of the 1960 presidential campaign, with so many backstage documentary information is brilliant. You read a novel at the same time as a research of a certain period.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Sad to see Faulkes, known for originality becoming formulaic, 11 May 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: On Green Dolphin Street (Hardcover)
I first discovered Faulkes through "Girl at the Lion D'Or". Since then, I have found each new book to be slightly less fulfilling than the last, with this one a big disappointment. His mastery of prose remains as ever, but without a strong plot or thought provoking / critical message, it runs the risk of being pretentious. I found the book to be a cross between a rather dull (as in "heard it all before") history lesson, a travelogue of New York, and an attempt at taking on the pathos of "Brief Encounter" (as in Bruce Springsteen's attempt at writing through the greatest rock & roll track of all time in "Born to Run" - he came close!). Perhaps it was just me, but the characters did not move me, and in this sort of novel, that is just a disaster. Hope you get on better than I did, and very much hope that Faulkes finds a way of getting back on to top form!
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Unconvincing change of arena, 10 May 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: On Green Dolphin Street (Hardcover)
This book marks a departure for Faulks from his last two novels in the French triology which were so sucessful in stirring empathy in the reader. "On Green Dolphin Street" sees Faulks tackle a love story set against the political race for the US presidency between Kennedy and Nixon.
Many of Faulks' usual ingredients are present in this book: focus on a love story, intense characterisations and well researched historical details. The problem with the book was the historical context he has chosen: Faulks fails to recreate the sense of change which the US was undergoing in the late fifties/early sixties and he relies too heaviliy on the poignancy which the reader's hindsight brings to the fate of Kennedy and Nixon. The fact that Faulks harks back to WW2 and Vietnam in the recollections of the two male lead characters suggests that even he knew that political battles are no real substtiute for physical warfare as a setting for a love story.
I finished the book not caring about the fate of any of the three main characters, largely as a result of the curiously dispassionate description of their feelings.
Faulks does succeed in depicting well New York of the era and the description of Mary's reactions to the death of her mother were very moving - and if only for that reason it is worth a read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, 15 April 2010
Against the backdrop of the 1960 Presidential election, fought by John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon, a weary English mother embarks upon a clandestine affair with a newspaper reporter covering the election battle. This is really all there is to the story, but Faulks writes so visually and with such a Fleming-esque attention to detail, that the reader is inescapably drawn into the world of dinner parties, cocktails and the various characters' internal struggles and desires. Taking one character at a time, the writer casts an eye over their past lives; never judging but observing and highlighting the passions and fears that gripped many in America during the post-McCarthy fallout.

As well-crafted as Birdsong, as powerful as The Girl at the Lion d'Or, and as thoughtful as Charlotte Gray, this superb novel shows a writer at the height of his not inconsiderable powers.
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On Green Dolphin Street by Sebastian Faulks (Hardcover - Dec 2001)
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