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And No Birds Sang
Farley Mowat
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And No Birds Sang

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  999 Ratings  ·  85 Reviews
Turned away from the Royal Canadian Air Force for his apparent youth and frailty, Farley Mowat joined the infantry in 1940. The young second lieutenant soon earned the trust of the soldiers under his command, and was known to bend army rules to secure a stout drink, or find warm - if non-regulation - clothing. But when Mowat and his regiment engaged with elite German force ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published April 1st 2012 by Douglas & McIntyre (first published 1979)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This book should be required reading for all high school and college students, so they will understand what war really means.
The Newsweek review for this book when it was published in 1979 said: "Reads like a novel and fixes images in the mind like a movie." I agree with that assessment. Perhaps I will write more of a review when I'm not so emotionally bowled over. The book had a profound impact on me.
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, war, wwii
When I was 12 the poem that brought to me a love of poetry and literature was Keat's "La Belle Dans san Merci" which I found in my father's old high school text book 'Literature and Life'. which had a black and white copy of the Frank Dicksee painting of the same name. I thought of Mowat who probably through his Canadian schooling had competed in Elocution, each year memorizing a different poem for the competitions much as I had.
This is a story of an infantry Lieutenant and war as he imagined i
Robert French
In the 80s I read a fair number of books by Farley Mowat, but had never encountered And No Birds Sang. It is an emotional memoir of Farley Mowat’s experiences in Sicily and Italy during WWII as a member of the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment (Hasty Pees). He participated in Operation Husky, the Canadian invasion of Sicily in July and August of 1943 and then the drive toward Rome. Mowat does not mince words and is often critical of senior command decisions. But what comes through most of all ...more
Dec 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me when I was looking for books about what WWII was like in Italy. It a non-fiction recounting of a young Canadian's front line experiences starting at the invasion of Sicily by the Allies. I am amazed that Mr. Mowat can take us through his own emotions in retrospect. He conveys the impatience of the young gung-ho troops as they cool their heels in Canada and England waiting for their chance to take it to the Germans--through the terrible fighting--to the end where h ...more
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In July 1942, Farley Mowat was an eager young infantryman bound for Europe and impatient for combat. This powerful, true account of the action he saw, fighting desperately to push the Nazis out of Italy, evokes the terrible reality of war with an honesty and clarity fiction can only imitate. In scene after unforgettable scene, he describes the agony and antic humor of the soldier's existence: the tedium of camp life, the savagery of the front, and the camaraderie shared by those who have been bl ...more
TheIron Paw
Jun 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: military-history
This is not a standard Farley Mowat book, nor is it a typical military history/memoir. In the "anti-epilogue" Mowat describes the book as representing three decades of forgotten memories. I think it more likely they were repressed memories. He recounts his experiences in the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment (the ``Hasty Pees) through England, Sicily, then up Italy, culminating in the crossing of the Sangro and Moro rivers. This account progresses from the idealistic youth, eager to get to war ...more
Sometimes I wonder how I or my dad or uncles would behave if we were in combat. I feel like I got the answer reading Mowat's memoir. Mowat is a bird watcher (like two of my uncles) and generally likes identifying things (especially military hardware, like me). His unit had been fighting through Italy without encountering stiff resistance, until they are ambushed by elements of the Hermann Göring division. They get pinned down, and Mowat takes cover in a ditch with some of his comrades. Instead o ...more
Oct 09, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfic-biography
An excellent read concerning Mowat's years in the Canadian Military and his actions during WWII in the Italian theater. Well written and very evocative. I only give it four stars because the story just stops on Christmas in 1943 and we don't really find out any more about his war experiences, other than that he survived them. I'd rather have liked seeing some completeness to the work, which was pretty short, even though I understand that he left it this way deliberately.
Shonna Froebel
Jan 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian, memoir
Very interesting and explicit.
Makes me wonder about my own grandfather's experiences.
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The title of the book is taken from the John Keats poem "La Belle Dame Sans Merci":
O what can ail thee, Knight in arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the Lake,
And no birds sing!
It is so apt both to the book and its author - a noted naturalist and bird-lover.
This is a brilliant war memoir that describes, perhaps better than any prior book I have read, the descent into "battle fatigue". It does so in a detailed and beautifully crafted description of Mowat's war experiences
Sunni Yuen
Raw and poignant account of Canadian WW2 experience in Italy. There's humour and sadness, and the utmost human compassion whacking a wollop in the way that only Farley Mowat can deliver.
War is brutal, insight into the man.
Paula Dembeck
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This memoir is considered to be one of the best written about a Canadian’s experience during World War Two, and many consider it among Mowat’s finest work.

He begins by describing his elation at finally being accepted into the military despite twice being refused. He moves on to his training in Britain when he desperately wanted to excel at something risky and became a self taught expert in explosives. And finally, he describes his experiences in battle, fighting first in Sicily and later on the
Ethan Jensen
Dec 23, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"In July of 1942 Farley Mowat was an eager, idealistic infantry lieutenant barely out of his teens, bound for Europe on troop ship and impatient to see action." -Farley Mowat himself

Before reading this book, you will need to know about and/or read about these things; the European Theater, Benito Mussolini, Fascism, and the "Soft Underbelly" of Italy. In the beginning of this historical memoir, Farley Mowat is living his typical life in a rural town in Ontario. Farley is the son of an infantry M
Sep 29, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am giving this book two stars and that is being generous. Not that it is badly written or anything, but it was NOT what I was expecting. I finished it only because it was too cold to get out of bed and go look for something else.

Having recently read Lost in the Barrens, I was expecting another story about wilderness, wildlife and friendship. Little did I know that this book is not fiction. It is actually an autobiographical account of Farley Mowat's military service in WWII. I was unprepared,
Oct 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Basically an eager Canadian Army joiner, (after twice being rejected by the Air Force) Mowat and the Canadians in the book get treated like cannon fodder. He's an Intelligence Officer, which means a lot of forward reconnaissance, commanding small patrols, and in the stalemate of Italy, running into and out of battles with orders. The book ends just south of Ortona with Mowat losing his mind, ready to relive a tale his father told him of WWI: shell shocked/PTSD guys standing up within enemy's ran ...more
Paul DiBara
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How did this guy survive the war? Too many close calls, too much blood, gore and grief!

I have seen a small part of a video interview with Farley in which he laments humanity's penchant for war, to the point where it becomes clear that he has little hope that our species is long for this planet.

Squib (Farley) is a diminutive fellow but not when it comes to serving his country (Canada) as WWII breaks out. His father served in WWI and regaled Squib with only positive stories about his experience. A
Isaac Werner
Jan 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Would you ever like to go back and get an eyewitness view of the horrors of World War 2? In the book, And No Birds Sang by Farley Mowat, you can get a glimpse at what World War 2 was all about through the eyes of the main character, which is also the author! Meet Farley Mowat: A typical, pumped up young adult itching to get his hands on a trigger and help the canadian army fight alongside Great Britain to push through italy. Farley goes through what some might consider miserable, he considers a ...more
Jul 14, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I admit that I was a bit uncertain when I started this book. I had previously loved his novel Lost in the Barrens but, on the other hand, The Dog Who Wouldn't Be, his memoir of growing up on the Canadian Prairie was corny and somewhat self conscious. I didn't know which writer I would find in And No Bird Sang since it was another memoir but with a more serious subject. As it turned out I got both. And it worked.

In the opening chapters we find the young Farley joining the army, going through basi
Troy Parfitt
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fan of Can Lit, I’d never read Farley Mowat and had heard, in my youth, he was a fabricator and a wing bag, but, well, Canada can be pretty parochial. I’d scanned Mowat’s works in used-book stores, and thought he could write, but there was something too folksy about titles like The Boat Who Couldn’t Float and I never left the shop with one of his books. Mowat died recently, and the CBC sang his praises, so I decided to finally read him. I chose And No Birds Sang, a memoir about his time in the ...more
Mark Valentine
Mar 03, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I rank this one of the best of World War II battle memoirs I have read. Mowat expresses the naivete of his enlistment and his innocense in training and preparing for battle. His preoccupation rests in following in his father's footsteps and in what his comrades support. One scene in particular I thought very funny: As a Liaison Officer in training in England, he called in too closely a dozen Spitfires in order to 'buzz' a VIP only to find out the next day that after the planes had scattered ever ...more
Gary Daly
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Taught memoir of a young man from Canada serving in World War Two in the Sicily campaign and then followed up by the more brutal and gruesome Italian campaign to reach Rome. Farley writes as he sees it and his self reflections on what he experienced are extremely vivid and potent. He tells of sharing rum with a mortally wounded German Paratrooper whose liver had been blown halfway out his torso. As they sipped rum the torn and ripped bloody remains of two other German Paratroopers is testament t ...more
Rik Brooymans
Dec 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting historical viewpoint on a small portion of WWII as lived by one of Canada's premier authors. His writing is a little rough at the beginning, but really shines towards the end, while the actions he describes fall ever further down the scale of horrific and inhuman.

It certainly can't be described as straight history, as there is as much a concentration on the psychological effects of the war, especially the brilliantly described undying worm of fear, as there is on dates and troop
Apr 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was recommended to read this by my mentor back when I was an intern to help me understand my patients, but I didn't get around to it until just recently. I wish I had read it earlier. It's a good description of events leading up to the author's psychological break under the pressures of combat. I'm guessing he may have suffered from traumatic amnesia when everything finally became too much for him, that's why the book ends as abruptly as it does. And I thought that was an effective way to conv ...more
Tamsin Ramone
Sep 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's taken me a couple of days to think about what to write in a review of this book.

I was underwhelmed with the first half, it may have been because I was expecting a great read and found the start quite slow but I think I was mainly perturbed by Farley Mowat's gun hoe attitude to war. I am aware that many many people could not wait to get stuck into the action but reading it first hand was difficult for me.

However, I think it was completely necessary.

By the end of the book I was looking back
Paul Lima
Nov 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you ever though war was anything less than insanely stupid and senseless, read this book. I am sure more horrific war stories have been written; in part, that's what makes this book so horrific. That Farley Mowat live a long and productive life after Canadian forces helped liberate Italy during the Second World War is a testament to the man's internal fortitude. Compassionately written, with touches of humour, and an in-the-trenches gut feel, this book is a must read. Every kid in school shou ...more
Kelley Jansson
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mowat's writing in "An No Birds Sang" is in no way equal to his "Never Cry Wolf" masterpiece. I'd probably give the writing 3 stars, but decided on 4 stars overall due to the content, which is a very unique view of Canadian troops in Italy during World War II. The first half of the book is a bit dull, but the second half picks up with the action and delivers some very thought-provoking feelings on the effect of battle on soldiers. Drawing from his father's World War I experience as well as his o ...more
Steven Buechler
May 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mowat was a frank writer. No nonsense and gruff was his writing style that impressed me most. His love of the environment was paramount in his books and through them many of them, many readers learned to care about the environment. Owls in the Family is one of the first books I remembered that engaged my love of literature. And Never Cry Wolf is – and always will be – a staple in Canadian literature. But it wasn’t until later on that I learned of Mowat’s war experiences. I recalled one or two wa ...more
Doriana Bisegna
When I heard that Farley Mowat had passed away last week, I remembered that I had a book of his sitting on my bookshelf for at least 25 years. When I read the inner flap, I realized that I had this little gem idly sitting there collecting dust. This is the story of Mr. Mowat's enlistment in the army during WWII and the story of his squadron's fight against the Nazis in Sicily. Wonderfully written, raw, honest and a tribute to all the men that fought along with him. We have definitely lost a grea ...more
Dec 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Early in his WWII service Farley Mowat got into all kinds of hilarious high-jinks, but several chapters in his gripping descriptions of his company's slog through Sicily had me at the edge of my seat and were rarely amusing. It reads like a movie in that you can see and hear what's going on around him as he remembers minute by minute some of the engagements he fought in. It is an incredibly powerful book about military service and the hardships suffered by Canadians on the ground. Highly recomme ...more
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Farley McGill Mowat was a conservationist and one of Canada's most widely-read authors.
Many of his most popular works have been memoirs of his childhood, his war service, and his work as a naturalist. His works have been translated into 52 languages and he has sold more than 14 million books.
Mowat studied biology at the University of Toronto. During a field trip to the Arctic, Mowat became outrag
More about Farley Mowat...
“I wonder now… were my tears for Alex and Al and all the others who had gone and who were yet to go? Or was I weeping for myself…and those who would remain?” 4 likes
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