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How Much Can the Human Spirit Endure?
on 17 January 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!