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Birds Without Wings Paperback – 4 Jul 2005

4.4 out of 5 stars 229 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 625 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New Ed edition (4 July 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099478986
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099478980
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (229 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 15,779 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"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)

Book Description

'Captivating and compelling. A masterpiece' Independent on Sunday

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is a truly great novel. It is set in Western Turkey in the early 20th century and concerns the events surrounding the first world war, the break-up and eventual dissolution of the Ottoman empire, and the effect that this has on the everyday inhabitants of a small town.
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.
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By A Customer on 29 Nov. 2004
Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful book. Hard going at times, but ultimately rewarding. If you loved Captain Corelli, this has many of the same ingredients: engrossing characters, minutely-observed village life, and a war that shatters everything. As ever with Louis de Bernieres, you have the sense that the entire book is painstakingly researched. Which makes it fascinating at times and treacle-ish at others. But, give it time. After 100 pages you won't be able to put it down.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Appropriately enough, I've just finished Louis de Bernières' Birds Without Wings while here in Turkey. And I have to say that it is quite simply one of the most breathtaking and moving novels I've ever read.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Louis de Bernieres can write marvellously, of that there is no doubt. He can touch the heart and bring tears to the eyes; he can conjure up the deepest of emotions with the lightest of touches. I hugely enjoyed the Latin American trilogy that preceded "Captain Corelli's Mandolin", and Corelli itself deserved all the critical acclaim it received. Yet despite my anticipation (I have visited Fethiye and walked around the sad ruins of the deserted village close by) I found this latest Turkish offering a little less than a delight. Yes, there are individual chapters that have the de Bernieres magic; yes, there are passages that live up to the best in his previous work; and yes, it is in places erudite, witty, and touching. But put together as a whole there is one overriding flaw, and that is that "Birds Without Wings" is quite simply far too diffuse. While the historical diversions may be edifying, the endless asides make for a tale that can all too easily just become becalmed.

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.
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