Customer Review

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You have to have been there..., 11 July 2008
This review is from: On Green Dolphin Street (Paperback)
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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