Birdsong
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Birdsong

4.03 of 5 stars 4.03  ·  rating details  ·  38,232 ratings  ·  1,811 reviews
Published to international critical and popular acclaim, this intensely romantic yet stunningly realistic novel spans three generations and the unimaginable gulf between the First World War and the present. As the young Englishman Stephen Wraysford passes through a tempestuous love affair with Isabelle Azaire in France and enters the dark, surreal world beneath the trenche...more
Paperback, 483 pages
Published June 2nd 1997 by Vintage International (first published 1993)
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Community Reviews

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Lance Greenfield
It's as if the author is writing from personal experience.

The way that the characters and the atmosphere are built by Sebastian Faulks is just amazing! The reader is taken in to that atmosphere, and shares the feelings of the main character, Stephen. You cannot fail to be totally captivated.

Anyone who has served for any significant period in the Armed Forces will instantly relate to the use of black humour to cover the awful reality and horror. Faulks also manages to reflect on how every aspect...more
Doug
[Trigger warning for rape]

I'm pretty confused as to why this book has such a high rating on here. What should be transparently obvious to anyone who's read this is that Sebastian Faulks is a poor writer. His understanding of pacing is risible; his prose is bland and leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination; his knowledge of how to write a romantic, let alone convincing, sex scene is non-existent (no, Sebastian, using the word "impaled" to describe vaginal penetration conjures up no sweeter c...more
Zhiqing
Beautifully written. As the subtitle indicates, this is a "A Novel of Love and War". The part about THE war, I have to admit I had very little knowledge of WWI before I read this book, except for the bare minimum of how it started and how a great many young men died in the war. I also don't normally read books with many battle scenes and with war as the main theme, but once I started reading this one, I just couldn't put it down until I reached the last page. What moved me most was the detailed...more
Jo
"It was not his death that mattered; it was the way the world had been dislocated. It was not all the tens of thousands of deaths that mattered; it was the way they had proved that you could be human yet act in a way that was beyond nature."

This ‘review’ might sound like a huge cliché, and for that I apologise. What I don’t apologise for is the sentiments behind it because I mean every word.
I approached this book, the third time I have read it, with extreme caution. I felt like I was meeting up...more
David
Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong is a kind of Harlequin romance with a literary slant. All the elements for pulp romance are there: "romantic" hero: soldier, refined gentleman; unhappy married woman; "romantic" locale: French suburbs, countryside; numerous, gratuitous sex scenes (I remember, horrifically, an excess of pulsating "members" and curtains of "flesh"). At the same time, Faulks strives to give it some literary taste, which I believe he largely fails to do. The time-jumping between pre-war, a...more
Catie
Oct 29, 2011 Catie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Catie by: Jo
I generally shy away from reading or watching stories about war. Not because they don’t interest me, but because they’re just too horrific for me to deal with most of the time. Zombies, ghosts, vampires, demons – bring em’ on! I’ve got nerves of steel. But young men and women, meeting across battlefields to slaughter each other by the thousands? That’s where the real horror lies. How could my own species be so coldly violent? So utterly nonchalant about the wholesale murder of children? So sadis...more
Dem
Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks is a moving, passionate, shocking, thought provoking and heartbreaking novel. A novel that manages to create a passionate and erotic love story combined with the horrors of war.

Set before and during the Great War, Birdsong tells the story of Stephen, starting in pre-war France and taking us right through the war and through a terrible period of history.
Faulks delivers a moving and shocking account of Stephen and his love affair and the trials and hardships of trenc...more
Chrissie
Aug 12, 2012 Chrissie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chrissie by: Dem
Buddy Read with Silver Raindrop. :0)
We will leave comments with each other below our reviews, for those who are interested.

I have listened to only twenty minutes. I love the prose style, the narration of the audiobook by Peter Firth is excellent and the events already have me terribly curious. Steven is creeping around a house in his socks searching for who has screamed! The depiction of Amiens, where the house is located, is perfect. I have been there, so I know. Unfortunately the narrator pron...more
Suzanne
This is one of the most haunting novels I have ever read about World War 1. The title comes from the the practice of coal miners bringing a "canary in the coal mine" to test for bad air. In WW 1 hundreds of British coal miners were drafted into the British Army to help build tunnels under the trenches in France. The main character leaves Britain and enters the War after a failed affair....the descriptions of trench warfare, tunnel making, nerve gas, human carnage and the waste of war is a powerf...more
Julie
ETA to add link to segment aired on NPR 1/23/14 on digitized British World War I diaries. See below.

Someone should have warned me. Someone should have known I am acutely claustrophobic and that opening the door to this book would be inviting in the specter of a panic attack. Picture me curled on the sofa or huddled beneath the covers, my breath shallow, my heart racing, my throat closing as soldiers worm their way through tunnels beneath the trenches. Feel the numbing of my extremities, the drai...more
Giedre
A hundred years have passed after World War I, one of the biggest atrocities in our history. The last surviving veteran passed away two years ago, taking the last living memory of those horrible years along with her. It is now up to us to keep alive the memories of those who have endured the war and of those who have not. It is up to us to remember. It is up to us to keep history from repeating itself.

"Birdsong" by Sebastian Faulks was my personal choice to commemorate the 100th anniversary of W...more
Janelle V.
Finishing this book is something like being dug out of a shell hole, or emerging from sleep still in the grip of one's nightmare. Faulks did a shatteringly good job of conveying the sheer incomprehensible horror of the trenches and mines. He was equally adept at blind, headlong, addictive physical passion. What kept this novel from five stars was the 1978-1979 material about Elizabeth Benson. While the snippet of her at Thiepval is moving, I get no sense of promises kept or the torch being passe...more
Wendy
I considered myself a fairly informed person about the 1st World War, until I read this book. It is one of the most disturbing accounts of the effects of atrocities upon the human mind I have ever read. A friend of mine who is a psychiatrist, and specialises in the effects of shock on the mind, borrowed this from me and was impressed with the accurate portrayal of the reactions of humans to extreme stress.

The book starts some years before the war when a young english man, Stephen Wraysford, goes...more
James Wilkinson
This book is a bit of a mixed bag really. The romance is quickly introduced and proceeds with relative alacrity, but the essence of it left me unconvinced. The standout part of the whole novel is Wraysford's time in the trenches during the Great War. I have never read a book that has ever given me a clearer idea of what this battlefield was like, and the horrors that these men lived through and then carried with them. It is some of the most powerful writing I have seen, and the chilling coldness...more
Marty

This book tells the story of Stephen Wraysford and the events that shape his life during WWI, the Great War. Starting in pre-war France and moving on in time, it deals with Stephen's experiences in love and war. It begins in 1910 when Steven discovers his first love. It's not so much love, however, more a young man's lust idealized as love. And, that, sadly, was to be interrupted by war. It will provide much necessary yearning for the young Steven who goes off to that terrible war.

The battlefiel...more
Kristen
Stopped reading this 200 pages in. I understand its greatness, but it's just too slow for my taste. A lot happens in the story, but it's described in a way that makes it seem like nothing is happening at all. There's very little action going on, even though a good chunk of this book revolves around WWI and the trenches. It's hard to care for the characters because they all have annoying qualities and silly reasons for why they make any of their decisions. It's just not a book I can invest much i...more
K.D. Absolutely
Apr 15, 2009 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Tata J
Shelves: 1001-core, war
Excellent book. There was never a boring page. This is a kind of novel that you would like to slow down in your reading as every word is used properly to make the whole story right. Thank you to Tata J for sharing this novel to me. This is one of my favorite novels. What I particularly learned from this was the life of WWI soldiers in trenches.
Praj
Birdsong is one of those few books that haunt you even after you have read the last word. A quote from the first part of the book truly describes its writings. "The function of music is to liberate in the soul those feelings that normally we keep locked up in the heart". This book does the same. It opens up a plethora of emotions experienced by the reader with every passage in the book.
This book focuses on the life of Stephen Wraysford, a World War I veteran, while channeling into the life of...more
Elaine
For quite a way into this book I kept putting it down and feeling disinclined to pick it up again. I wasn't sure why I found it so heavy going. There's no doubt that its brilliantly written, it wasn't dry and boring, but for some reasonI just couldn't get into it. I realised that I really didn't ike the main character and consequently had no interest in what happened to them. However I persevered with reading although slowly.

Then the war started. Oh my goodness what a book!! I knew the first wor...more
Grace Tjan
I waver between two or three stars for this book. The writing is serviceable, but often terminally pedestrian, and occasionally clumsy (“Stephen lifted searching eyes above the soup spoon as he sucked the liquid over his teeth”). The plotting is similarly ham-fisted, with its tepid “romances”, and unaffecting, though undoubtedly well-researched war scenes (“Stephen watched the men go on madly, stepping over the bodies of their friends, clearing one firebay at a time, jostling one another to be f...more
·Karen·
Photobucket Pictures, Images and Photos
One of the Burberry Boys, Eddie Redmayne of the bruised looking lips as Stephen Wraysford in the new BBC film.



Sebastian Faulks’ epic love story set against the First World War, which became a modern classic when it was published in 1993, is adapted for the screen for the first time by Abi Morgan.

The action of the two part serial moves between 1910 and 1916, telling the story of Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman who arrives in Amiens in Northern France to stay with the Azaire family and fall
...more
Becky
This was my second reading of Birdsong, and I expected to be less stunned, less appalled, and less involved in this masterpiece of a novel. I couldn't have been more wrong. Even on second reading, Birdsong retains huge power as a novel. It serves as a hugely important reminder of the near past, of the sacrifices that were made by our very close ancestors to preserve our way of life. It's full of passion, of the resilience of human nature, and the depths that humanity can dredge in times of war....more
Oana
description

I have the worst book/movie hangover, damn. It's like Atonement happening all over again. How could I go on with my life the way I used to after this? My joy of living is utterly ruined.
Judy

Sebastian Faulks is a famous novelist in his native land, Great Britain. I had heard of him but it took the suggestion of the British member of one of my reading groups to get me reading him.

Birdsong is the second of his trilogy of historical novels set in France. The Girl at the Lion D'Or came first and he completed the trilogy with Charlotte Gray. I have seen the movie made from Charlotte Gray and it was great.

Having read The Invisible Bridge just two weeks earlier, I was saturated with war, b...more
Algernon
A devastating account of the slaughterhouse that was the trench war of 1914-1918, not only about the loss of innocence, but about the complete destruction of human mind and the impossible task of maintaining a shred of sanity when everybody around you is blown to pieces.
The decision to start the epic with a passionate love story a few years before the war and to end it some 60 years later with a generation that has almost forgot the horror serves well to emphasize the brutality of the trench acc...more
Sue
I have quite mixed feelings about this book. While I found the sections on the war proper quite devastating and very well done, I also found the framing device of the pre-war romance and more present day life far less effective and also less well written. My feelings may also be affected to some extent by other World War I literature that I have been reading as part of the Centennial over the past few months.

I will return to write a complete review.
Jeda
Add me to list of readers who was annoyed and unconvinced by the split-personality of this book. The bit about the war--harrowing and awful, yet so beautifully and carefully written you'll be drawn in inspite of yourself. The bit about the grand-daughter and her lame affair--zzzzzzzzzzzz.
Caroline
Hummmm... I found it hard to lose myself in this book and connect with the characters. I don't know why I felt so removed from it. I could only really envisage two of the people in the book - firstly a minor character called Monsieur Bérard. He was an officious town counseller, a small town bully, used to bossing other people around. But he had presence, and for me he was there as a human being. The other character I responded to was Jack Firebrace, a tunneller, with superb listening skills...he...more
Michael
This is a masterful novel with lasting resonance for me about the impacts of war and resilience of human spirit. I think its achievement be at a level of "All Quiet on the Western Front". The narrative covers the life of an English man in France before the World War 1, his four years as a soldier, and a search by his granddaughter 60 years for knowledge of his life.

It's hard for the reader to care about Stephen Wraysford in the first section. He is aloof and unemotional, with no family or relig...more
Hester
Birdsong? More like Birdshit. I may have given this book one star, but I really give it 20 piles of steaming birdshit.

I can't even contain the hatred I feel for this one. It's just horrible. Everything and I mean everything about it, is just horrible.

It starts off as a supposed love story between a young Englishman Stephen Wraysford and some French harlot named Isabelle. But it's not a love story, it's a fuck story that includes bastard children, betrayal and whole lot of boring WWI shit throw...more
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Sebastian Faulks was born in 1953, and grew up in Newbury, the son of a judge and a repertory actress. He attended Wellington College and studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, although he didn’t enjoy attending either institution. Cambridge in the 70s was still quite male-dominated, and he says that you had to cycle about 5 miles to meet a girl. He was the first literary editor of “The Independe...more
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“I know. I was there. I saw the great void in your soul, and you saw mine.” 48 likes
“The function of music is to liberate in the soul those feelings which normally we keep locked up in the heart.” 31 likes
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