Review: Sebastian Faulks’ “Birdsong”

by writereaderly

A superb novel. In 1910, Britisher and orphan Stephen Wraysford travels to Amiens, France, for work and stays for soul-love. In 1916, he returns as a lieutenant to the Somme and other bellic disasters, and – partial spoiler alert – miraculously survives it all to return to England with a French wife and later a child. Stephen’s journey through passion and hate and despair and world-love, as extreme as a four-year tour-of-duty can make it, is exquisitely rendered, and the numerous minor characters who contextualise Stephen’s experience are all finely wrought and powerfully felt. The only slightly weak point is the 1978-79 section, somewhat tacked on for synchronicity (?), but overall this novel is a stunner and I look forward to reading anything else Faulks has written. (His Girl at the Lion d’Or was a delightful surprise when I opshopped it last year.) Most excellent.

Where it came from: Opshop
Time and manner of reading: A couple of bed-bits then a gripped long bed-haul
Where it went: As yet undecided
Reminds me of: Those other superlative WWI novels – McEwan’s Atonement, Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy – and, to its detriment (again), Tom McCarthy’s self-important one, C
Who I’d recommend it to: You cannot fault the power of this read; it’s only a matter of being up for the rawness of the emotions and the trenches
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; Selected Essays by George Orwell; Picturing Canada by Gail Edwards and Judith Saltman (just the images)

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