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The Birds Fall Down

3.67  ·  Rating Details  ·  218 Ratings  ·  31 Reviews
West’s gripping psychological mystery—now available as an ebook

Part thriller, part historical novel, The Birds Fall Down takes readers inside the intrigue of revolutionaries preparing to overthrow an empire

During early revolutionary stirrings in Russia, after an unexpected turn of events, Laura Rowan, the coddled granddaughter of an exiled British nobleman, becomes her gra
...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published December 21st 2010 by Open Road Media (first published 1966)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,472)
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John E. Branch Jr.
Approaches to writing fiction vary as much as tastes in reading it: that's a way of recognizing that The Birds Fall Down disagrees with some readers, in large ways or small. One reason I admired it, when I read it in the mid-90s, was precisely its unusual features. Broadly speaking, it concerns the upheavals in Russia that led to the end of the tsar's court and the triumph of the Communists, but it doesn't take place in Russia. Roughly a quarter of its length is devoted to a long talk on a Frenc ...more
Mosca
Oct 24, 2015 Mosca rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fearless students of history
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3 stars out of 5.

I may return, sometime and revise this rating.

This book has spun me around many times during this reading. And because it has been the first book by Rebecca West that I have read, I’m not certain of my qualifications to judge her as a writer just yet. But she is clearly a master of her craft.

As an American from the Deep South, I found her use of the English Language (UK) rhythmically difficult for my reading customs. And that is no
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Manik Sukoco
Dec 30, 2015 Manik Sukoco rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A harrowing train journey set against an exotic background of spies and intrigue, a beautiful and accomplished heroine, dramatic surprises and distinguished and extraordinary characters; this book has it all. The main plot revolves about the political complexities developing in Europe and Russia around 1901, and while the action takes place chiefly in France, the main protagonist, Laura, is a well-born Englishwoman still too young to have been presented at court. From her British father she inhe ...more
Paul Gaya Ochieng Simeon Juma
Life can be difficult at times. Moving forward can at times appear to be an uphill task sucking up all the energy in us.

That is how I felt when I started this book. I had to push myself to read it since I myself bought it and I didn't want to see my money going to waste.

The book is about trust and betrayal. Nikolai has lived with Kamensky in England before he meets up with Vasili Illyevitch who exposes the true character of Kamensky. He is a spy for the Tsar of Russia.

Vasili elaborates why he
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Moneer
I think it will be amazing ...........
this is what my friends told me........
Meredith
This book won't be for everyone, but I found it amazing. The story is developed primarily in a few long conversations, which were so fascinating that I read the book in a very short time. Intrigue, things that are hinted but not outrightly stated, even conclusions the reader draws that the protagonist remains unaware of. Details, precise crafting....wow, this was a real find. I am eager to read more of Rebecca West based on my experience with this one.
A G
Jun 04, 2016 A G rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
'One can never tell for certain who anybody is, even beds are great conspirators..' This is the climate of political terror in what was both Tsarist and Bolshevik Russia, where eavesdropping is continuous, comrades, informers, pestilential conspirators talk in the dark like gypsies - one must listen, discreet questions eliciting indiscreet answers, the hunted should learn all he can about the hunter . The revolutionary movement was honeycombed with treachery and mistrust. If the English had no r ...more
Jan-Maat
Starts out as an everyday story of upper-middle class/upper class folk in early 20th century Britain. Intimations of the husband and wife having a strained relationship, wife departs for France with her daughter to met her elderly Father all told from the point of view of the daughter that slowly opens out in to a wider political story taking in the crisis in the russian socialist-revolutionary party after the Azef scandal. Enjoyable.
Anton
May 08, 2014 Anton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


Terrific book. The writing just flows from beginning to end. It seems easy, at least for me, to except that the narrator, a young girl, is as wise and as brave as she is. The time is around the turn of the 19th century; the action centers around a conversation in a train, in France, having to do with the early days of the Russian revolution. The narrator is the daughter of an English politician and a Russian aristocrat.
I first got to know Rebecca West by reading her book about Yugoslavia, Black
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Tara
Mar 26, 2014 Tara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Rebecca West wrote some marvelously talented works. But she was not Dostoyevsky. She attempted to do too much here, and so only 3 characters are truly given life; that's a major problem when a novelist is trying to create an epic. The story-telling is erratic. Little rhyme or reason is given for character's actions. Scenes that should take several pages take 40. Events which should be more fully explained take a paragraph. Nonsense side plots, if one can even call them plots, come in and out, as ...more
Deanne
Did like this, but some elements of the whole conspiracy plot were confusing, what exactly was the point? What had set this latest plot in motion? and how did the identity of the state police spy suddenly become evident.
Asa
Jul 01, 2011 Asa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful book, but when I try to summarize it it sounds so trite: a young woman of good family grows up and learns more about herself, her family, and the world. All of that is true, but the book also gives you a good explanation of Hegel's dialectic, a good look at the different sides of tradition and revolution, a truly treacherous villain, an excellent example of showing character bias and dramatic irony as Laura, the main character, completely misses something that's clear to the reader des ...more
Ebirdy
Jan 27, 2013 Ebirdy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-but-unowned
I am glad I learned about Dame Rebecca West. I had never heard of her (Rebecca West was a nom de plume; her given name was Cicely Isabel Fairfield) or her books before her name came up when I was doing research for ideas for my book group in 2013. Until I did some reading online, I didn't know she was a noted feminist and gained notoriety by becoming the mistress of HG Wells. She made the cover of Time magazine in 1947, where she was called "indisputably the world's No. 1 woman writer". She died ...more
Claire Goodbody
Feb 13, 2015 Claire Goodbody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I have collected a number of Rebecca West's books since I discovered her two years ago. She is my favourite author of political historical thrillers and commentary. Each time I re-read her works I am appreciate her intelligence of the intricate plots and machinations of our political systems. She speak of these systems in all their aspects including family. She has a playful and deep sense of humour; gently or sharply apparent through the dialogue or narrative. Her works will always keep me comi ...more
Kerry Hullett
Feb 29, 2016 Kerry Hullett rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Read about one third didn't like
Claire
Dec 29, 2012 Claire rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So while this is clearly the point in Rebecca West's career when she was too interested in real world events to write actual fiction, thus making this less a story and more a lot of interesting conversations about political theory, I love this book SO much. Laura Rowan is so funny and reacts to everything like a real person would. And underneath all that talking there is a real, compelling, even terrifying story there. I want a miniseries of this. BBC? PBS? Now is your chance. Let's cast Felicit ...more
Amy
Sep 26, 2012 Amy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars. I liked it, but sometimes the narrative grew a bit confusing as not all events were happening in real time, which caused confusion when things did begin happening in real time. It felt like I was reading quickly through the book without making much progress towards the end, which was a bit of an odd sensation as I was interested in the plot.

Espionage, betrayal, double agents and the Russian revolution lingering in the background. This is an exciting, if lengthy read.
Kaycie
Jan 09, 2015 Kaycie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1001_read
Rebecca West is the most underrated author I've seen on goodreads. Her books have very few ratings, but I just love them. By far the diamond in the rough of the 1001 books to read before you die list.

This one did get tedious and convoluted at times, but overall was very detailed, interesting, and extraordinarily well-written.
Florence
Jan 22, 2011 Florence rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This historical novel of prerevolutionary Russian expatriates in France and England was filled with intrigue. Unfortunately it was also filled with confusing and seemingly pointless conversations about philosophy, religion and other topics making it a tedious book to finish.
Jane
Feb 01, 2013 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I just found a letter I wrote in 1989 to a friend in which I extolled the virtues of this book. It made a vivid impression on me then and I will re-read it soon. It's a combination spy story and nostalgic history, penned with consummate skill by a great intellect.
William
Jun 05, 2014 William rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Linguistically exhausting but filled with insightful information and perspectives on the Bolshevik Revolution.
Katie Grainger
Jul 31, 2011 Katie Grainger rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The Birds Fall Down is a long winded political mystery novel. The conversations within this book are incredibly long-winded and go on for tens of pages and this can times can be incredibly frustrating. Not an easy read by any means.
Joseph Laizure
Jun 09, 2008 Joseph Laizure is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
So I flock to spy novels, so what? This promises to be a weird blend of Joseph Conrad's Under Western Eyes and...well, the setting is all wrong for this comparison, but some of Katherine Anne Porter's novellas and short stories.
Amy
Oct 15, 2015 Amy added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
I found myself getting impatient with this. Might try it again at a later date.
Rebecca
Jul 27, 2008 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rebecca West's spy novel. Tis about the necessity of treachery. Explores whether identity's formed from nationality or ancestry. Lots of Russian goodness.
Colleen
May 11, 2012 Colleen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A bit boring and slow but well written. Just another indication to me of how fast my world has become that I can't slow down and let events evolve.
eve
Oct 30, 2009 eve is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
moves veeery slowly... but it keeps hinting at secrets to be revealed. i'll soldier on at some point.
Wendy
Jul 15, 2012 Wendy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-written coming of age story with lots of interesting details and unexpected turns of events.
Anna Lancaster
Aug 21, 2013 Anna Lancaster rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful and satisfying book. Like a good home cooked meal after eating too much junk food.
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Cicely Isabel Fairfield, known by her pen name Rebecca West, or Dame Rebecca West, DBE was an English author, journalist, literary critic and travel writer. A prolific, protean author who wrote in many genres, West was committed to feminist and liberal principles and was one of the foremost public intellectuals of the twentieth century. She reviewed books for The Times, the New York Herald Tribune ...more
More about Rebecca West...

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“It isn't only living people who die, it is great stretches of living, which can die even when the people who lived there still exist.” 11 likes
“Reason's a thing we dimly see in sleep. ” 8 likes
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