Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Birdsong” as Want to Read:
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview


(French Trilogy #2)

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  71,332 ratings  ·  3,309 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 April 3rd 2012 by Vintage (first published September 27th 1993)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Birdsong, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Donald Scott the listener didn't put his head in the tank, just listed with ear pressed onto the tank. Vibration from tunnellers would presumably be transmitted in…morethe listener didn't put his head in the tank, just listed with ear pressed onto the tank. Vibration from tunnellers would presumably be transmitted into the drum and amplified to allow the human ear to pick it up.

Sebastian Faulks is meticulous in his research. Every angle is covered and this topic of what occurred in these dark days in the trenches during WWI is no exception.

I used to play football with the author. He was pretty decent at that too...😉(less)
Amy Napthine I have only ever read Birdsong, and i wasn't missing anything so i think you should be okay. …moreI have only ever read Birdsong, and i wasn't missing anything so i think you should be okay. (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.09  · 
Rating details
 ·  71,332 ratings  ·  3,309 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Birdsong
Amalia Gkavea
“But you must live your own life eventually. You have one chance only.”

A poetic, heart-breaking novel, about the atrocities of war and the hope that springs even under the most harrowing circumstances. Sebastian Faulks writes with elegant, beautiful prose, and creates memorable characters.

Stephen Wraysford and Isabelle Azaire take the central stage due to their tragic love-affair, but for me the characters that are the heart of the novel are Jack Firebrace and Weir, representing all that is
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.<\b>

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 t
Charlotte May
"If I am fighting on behalf of anyone, I think it is for those who have died. Not for the living at home. For the dead, over here."

What a beautiful and moving story!
Birdsong is a powerful novel, spanning generations and taking us through the horrors of World War 1.
Split into mainly 3 sections we begin with Stephen - a young man visiting Amiens in France, staying with a wealthy man and his family, the wife of whom he falls into an illicit love affair with.

"I am driven by a greater force than I
Dec 04, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very moving and haunting book. It captures the horrors of the first world war in such detail that it will stay with me for a very long time.
Mar 27, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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 found that the frame story, actually a dual frame, diminished the war story tremendous
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
A book in seven parts; the first being set in 1910 in France, where a wild affair between a young Stephen Wraysford and his host's wife(!) Isabelle, devastates the families involved, as well as setting the foundations of the book. It then alternates between the lengthy Wraysford 's First World War experiences and the very short sections of his granddaughter seeking to find out his war and post war story.

Hey! I was just setting out the book composition, this is a review of sorts, don't ya know! A
Jan 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not until almost the end when my 5-star became a certainty, and not until shortly before that when my first tear came. Yes, it was intense, as any book about a major war out to be. the intensity in this book did not manifest itself only through the gruesomeness the wreckage, and the atrocity associated with the war, but the emotional struggles beneath the surface of ordinary human beings being pulled out of the reality of their otherwise ordinary, though not necessarily perfect lives.
It was Step
Angela M
Mar 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a love affair, so passionate, but yet illicit and at first I thought that this is what was going to get to me in this novel. It did, but the most powerful, thought provoking thing about this book is what happened to the men in the trenches during WW I.

The gruesome, gut wrenching realities for soldiers fighting this war are told in phrases so descriptive that you almost wish you hadn't read them - about the smell of blood, wounds and body parts, the claustrophobic, horrific conditions in
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
☙ nemo ❧ (pagesandprozac)
Jan 02, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: misogynists who aren't sure if the first world war was Bad or not
Recommended to ☙ nemo ❧ (pagesandprozac) by: my english teachers, who assigned it for my A Level class. thanks a bunch guys.
warning: this review contains anger, copious swearing, and discussion of rape and misogyny.

whenever anyone asks me what my least favourite book is, i always say this, which seems odd considering it's been voted as the 100 best books on a bbc list or whatever it was.

usually, when i study a book, my appreciation and enjoyment of it multiplies tenfold. take, for example, the great gatsby, which i had liked previously but became one of my favourite books of all time when i began to study it.

now th
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Birdsong is a historical drama about WWI. Whenever I read about the tragedies of war I realize that had I been a soldier I never would have mentally recovered from the atrocities witnessed. Stephen, the main character, does recover but at a great cost.

When the book begins Stephen is an impetuous twenty year old. War is not yet in his future. There are a few references to the song of birds and how this sound is annoying to him. This will not always be the case. As we follow Stephen through his h
Jul 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"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
Dec 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: WWI Historical fiction
Recommended to Erin by: Jenny
Shelves: 1001-books
Think of the words on that memorial, Wraysford. Think of those stinking towns and foul bloody villages whose names will be turned into some bogus glory by fat-arsed historians who have sat in London. We were there. As our punishment for God knows what, we were there, and our men died in each of those disgusting places. I hate their names. I hate the sound of them and the thought of them, which is why I will not bring myself to remind you.

Wow! First published in 1994, Birdsong is a WWI era nov
Kevin Ansbro
From lovelorn soldiers, knee-deep in French mud, to privileged ladies taking tea in Blighty, Birdsong is a war story that appeals to both sexes. Class war/ real war; there are so many dimensions to this thunderous epic.
Through unaffected prose, Faulks manipulates our emotions in a way that few authors can.
My wife proclaims this to be her most favourite read, and were she to have typed this review, it would have attracted an easy five stars.
Peter Boyle
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
How much do you know about World War I? If you're like me, very little. In his introduction to Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks explains that World War II came along so quickly, that the preceding conflict was kind of overlooked in literature, and not as much was written about it. Well he certainly did his best to address that gap with the masterful Birdsong.

We begin in 1910. Stephen Wraysford, a 20-year-old Englishman, travels to Amiens on business. He falls head over heels for Isabelle, an older wom
Aug 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)
I believe there are novels that affect you long after you have closed the book and I do believe that this is one of them. It was fated for me to read this book (at least I believe it to be so) since as I walked into the library, this book was propped up on the shelf seeming to send a message saying take me home. I listened and am ever so grateful I did take this powerful book home and to heart.

My grandfather (age sixteen) fought in the Argonne forrest and was gassed in WW 1. He was in the trench
Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*
Another touching foray by Sebastian Faulks into life before and during WWI. Birdsong captures the drama of that era on both a national and a personal scale. It is the story of Stephen, a young Englishman, who arrives in Amiens in 1910. His life goes through a series of traumatic experiences, from the clandestine love affair that tears apart the family with whom he lives to the unprecedented experience of the war itself. His depiction of Stephen Wraysford's life during the war is very realistic, ...more
Oct 22, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  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
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
Jane Reye
Apr 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jane by: John
Shelves: fiction
A short review can be found here and two passages from the book, below. Recommended.

The night poured down in waves from the ridge above them and the guns at last fell silent. The earth began to move. To their right a man who had lain still since the first attack, eased himself upright, then fell again when his damaged leg would not take his weight. Other single men moved, and began to come up like worms from their shellholes, limping, crawling, dragging themselves out. Within minutes the hill
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
When I finished this I was in a towel, laying on a bed in Porto Santo. The fan was whirring and my brother was in the shower. It was one of those times when you feel so oppressed by the heat that you don't want to move and I figured as long as I was in a towel and still wet, I would be cooler, to some degree. So, I picked up Birdsong and finished it.

It was my dad who recommended it to me, and all the way through the book I was wondering why he loved it so much. It was good, well written and War
Julie Christine
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
Apr 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Feb 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Connie G
"Birdsong" follows Englishman Stephen Wraysford from a prewar intense relationship with a married French woman to the battlefield of the Somme. The horror of World War I is shown in a realistic manner involving all the senses. In his own way each soldier must deal with the trauma of trench warfare, or digging in the dark, narrow, claustrophobic tunnels under enemy lines.

There is a second thread to this book set in the 1970s involving Stephen's granddaughter, Elizabeth. She is trying to decipher
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
50 books to read ...: Birdsong 5 37 Jan 11, 2019 04:45PM  
1000 Books Before...: Birdsong 1 7 Feb 18, 2017 01:30PM  
Comparisons to Sebastian Faulk's Birdsong 4 45 Oct 02, 2015 01:22AM  
Books that draw on your emotions 2 19 Aug 24, 2015 10:04AM  
Is the 70s plotline a weakness or strength? 10 100 Aug 24, 2015 10:03AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Corelli's Mandolin
  • Captain Corelli's Mandolin (Piano Solo)
  • Regeneration (Regeneration, #1)
  • My Boy Jack
  • Atonement
  • Enduring Love
  • The Ghost Road (Regeneration, #3)
  • The Regeneration Trilogy (Regeneration, #1-3)
  • A Town Like Alice
  • Up the Line to Death: The War Poets 1914-1918: an anthology
  • On Chesil Beach
  • The Eye in the Door (Regeneration, #2)
  • Richard III
  • The Beekeeper of Aleppo
  • A Castle of Doomsday
  • One Day
  • Any Human Heart
  • One Last Summer
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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

Other books in the series

French Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Girl at the Lion d'Or
  • Charlotte Gray

News & Interviews

Believe it or not, we're halfway through 2021! As is our tradition, this is the time when the Goodreads editorial team burrows into our data to...
37 likes · 17 comments
“I know. I was there. I saw the great void in your soul, and you saw mine.” 140 likes
“The function of music is to liberate in the soul those feelings which normally we keep locked up in the heart.” 68 likes
More quotes…