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Birds Without Wings Paperback – 4 Jul 2005
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"A more ambitious novel than Captain Corelli, and a better one" (Financial Times)
"A mesmerising patchwork of horror, humour and humanity" (Independent)
"A magnificent, poetic, colossal novel... Superbly written... It is, in every sense, a sublime book" (Irish Times)
"His most serious and ambitious achievement to date" (Times Literary Supplement)
"Pleasurable... Like Steinbeck, de Bernières deserves praise for his imaginative sympathy" (Independent on Sunday)
'Captivating and compelling. A masterpiece' Independent on SundaySee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The story opens in Eskibahce and we are drawn into daily life through a series of anecdotes and tales told through the eyes of its various inhabitants. As the book progresses, the scene is cut more frequently to the historical events that are taking place, and as the book reaches its climax, we find ourselves totally engrossed in the war: the geopolitical struggles, the nationalist politics, the struggle between Greeks and Turks, and life in the trenches at Gallipoli.
The book achieves a superb balance between its gripping description of the history and politics of the time, and its equally gripping personal dramas being played out in this context. It explains the great tragedy that results ultimately in the deportation of the Turkish Greeks, with its attendant destruction of whole communities, the terrible consequences to individuals, and even the break-up of individual families.
To call this an "historical novel" is to understate the quality of the story-telling. There is some wonderful narrative here: the book creates its own folklore, marvellous tales, funny stories, sad stories, shocking stories, all embedded in this steam-rollering march of historical inevitability. We also meet some marvelous characters, who become like old friends as they come back time and again to contribute their little piece of the story. And here is another beautifully-executed technique - the stories overlap, as told by different people and seen from different points of view.Read more ›
It's crafted on an epic scale (600+ pages), and has a fascinating dual focus:
- at the MICRO level, we get to know and love the many and varied inhabitants of Eskibahçe, a small fictitious town near the Aegean coast (placed not far from Telmessos, now called Fethiye)
- at the MACRO level, we follow the determined but bumpy path of Mustafa Kemal, as he forges the modern Turkey out of the embers of the defunct Ottoman Empire, becoming the father of the new nation, Atatürk.
The reasons for this parallel tale quickly become clear. The geopolitical machinations of the many nation states in the run up, course of and then aftermath of the 1st World War had a profound and tragic impact on the ordinary citizens of towns all over Turkey. Without this big picture, an understanding and sympathy for these individuals would be impossible. And the realities were brutal. For throughout first quarter of the 20th Century, this region faced appalling atrocities, ethnic hatreds and population dislocation. And the consequences are still being felt across the region.
De Bernières has sought to personalise all this - to depict the tragedies with human faces, something that fiction and/or social history can do far better than dull and lifeless statistics. Eskibahçe is a beguiling creation in which Greeks, Armenians and Turks live side by side as fellow Ottomans, almost despite their religious differences.Read more ›
The central character is not a single individual - rather, it is the village of Eskibahce, and with it the assortment of all too human characters who find their lives transformed forever by tragedy on a global scale, innocents caught up in a maelstrom. De Bernieres' description of the lives of Rustem Bey, Iskander the Potter, Philothei and Mehmetcik (to name but four) is affectionate and detailed. The problem, though, is how to present the enormity of all that is happening to and beyond this crowd of engaging individuals whilst at the same time keeping the story coherent and focused. For me, it is not a problem that is satisfactorily solved.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is Louis de Berniere's favourite own book as revealed in the Wimbledon Book Festival and I read it for that reason. Beautifully written as ever with memorable characters. Read morePublished 23 days ago by H. Pinnington
Typical Louis de Bernieres, much research before writing a book. Set in Turkey, gives through an every day story, a terrible insight into the war between the Greecks and the... Read morePublished 1 month ago by brabason
A wonderful book! Heartfelt, emotional, warm and witty. There's a lot of history in between, which took about 100 pages longer than I preferred, but I learned a lot about these... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Cindy
This is a book that touches your soul and stays with you long after you finish the final page - it made me laugh and made me cry - the futility of war and the ignorance of man - a... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Lisa Marsh