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Birds Without Wings

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  11,718 ratings  ·  1,256 reviews
In his first novel since Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernières creates a world, populates it with characters as real as our best friends, and launches it into the maelstrom of twentieth-century history. The setting is a small village in southwestern Anatolia in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. Everyone there speaks Turkish, though they write it in Greek letters. It ...more
Paperback, 554 pages
Published June 28th 2005 by Vintage (first published April 24th 2004)
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Average rating 4.17  · 
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 ·  11,718 ratings  ·  1,256 reviews

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Jan 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing

No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe; any mans death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde

John Donne

To destroy

When is it a duty? When is it a right? When is it a sin? What makes one human being violate another’s body and spirit? What makes Cain to pick up the stone? What convinces one man that the death of thousands would make the world a better place? And on the contrary: Who, what and when should we save? Iskander the Potter believes that it is not the individual’s fault and that
Sep 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
ETA on completion: Chrissie, stoip saying you love the book. Explain why! Everything explained below remains true. Other books are emotionally captivating, intellectually interesting, filled with humor and sorrow, What is it that makes this one different for me? It is that this book has a message. It looks at people and life and it says loud and clear how stupid we human beings are and how wonderful too! Does that make sense to you? Do you see life that way too?

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Twice a Stranger: The M

Tracing the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the birth of the modern republic of Turkey, this novel alternates the first and third person narratives of a range of characters from the fictional town of Eskibahçe (meaning Garden of Eden) in southwest Turkey with an account of the life of Mustafa Kemal, later Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the first leader of modern Turkey.

At the turn of the 20th century, the inhabitants of Eskibahçe comprise Muslim Turks, Christians of Greek origin and Armenians. They live
Mar 01, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 Stars

Birds without Wings by Louis Bernieres.

A dense, mesmerising, harrowing and yet humorous novel that will bring out all emotions that a reader can experience but did not think possible in one story.

Set in the peaceful fictional village of Eskibahce in south west Turkey and home to Turkish Muslims and Greek Christians who have lived for centuries side by side and tolerate and enjoy for the most parts each other's traditions and religions. The author introduces us to a village of charact
Jul 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Laura by: Chrissie
This, for me, is one of those rare and treasured reads, a book that will stay with me forever. It tells the story of a small village in Smyrna starting about 1900, before it became Turkey. It is divided into many short chapters, and is told mostly in the third person. Sprinkled throughout, though, are chapters told from the point of view of several of the villagers, some of whom we meet as children, while others merely recount events from their young lives from the perspective of mature adults. ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
One of the GoodReads groups I am in, The World's Literature, is focusing on literature from and about Turkey this year. Birds Without Wings was one of the February picks (discussion will end up here,) and even though I started it a while ago, it took me staying up until 2 am this morning to get through it.

This is an incredibly well-executed novel. The author tells the story of Turkey in the early 20th century, from its development from the Ottoman Empire or Anatolia, into a time where the peopl
B the BookAddict
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to B the BookAddict by: Chrissie
Shelves: best-of-the-best
Hopefully, a proper review will follow in the next few days. One of those special novels that drew me in from the first page and kept me riveted until the very last. The characters became people I really did care about. I will think about them for a long time to come.

My top quotes from the novel:

“Man is a bird without wings and a bird is a man without sorrow.

“There comes a point in life where each one of us who survives begins to feel like a ghost that has forgotten to die at the right time, a
Jan 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
I so wish that the editor had been a bit more stringent with this book so that more people would read it! Even adoring the book as I did, I found I would have preferred it with one or two fewer plot lines. It is an incredibly historically informational novel peopled with (a few too many) warmly flawed and incredibly real characters.
I think the author's ability to provide a variety of viewpoints (via the different Muslim, Catholic, Turkish and Greek characters we meet) on a time period that is h
Dec 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
[4+] Birds Without Wings is my favorite kind of historical novel. De Bernieres transported me to the fictional village of Eskibahçe in the last years of the Ottoman Empire. His writing is so vivid that the town residents felt alive to me. I also learned quite about about the historical period and the break up of the Ottoman Empire. I listened to the audio version, wonderfully narrated by John Lee.
Apr 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book should come with a warning. It will sadden you beyond measure. Set in a coastal village at the end of the Ottoman empire in what is now Turkey, it follows the fortunes and misfortunes of a large cast of characters. As Christians and Muslims, they have lived together peaceably for generations, and would continue to have done so without the virulent rise of nationalism in the "great world" around them. So the author argues, as the entire village is swept up in the wars and civil wars eru ...more
Feb 25, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I LOVED this book. It's a story of true friendships which are torn apart by superficial definitions of separateness. It covers the topics of beauty, birth, a parent's love, a brothers love, unrequited lovers, addiction, the reality of death of old age and the brutality of untimely death. This book tells the story of Ataturk and the Armenian forced migration in a balanced and objective yet intimate way. It tells the story of the unity of the Greeks and the Turks before Wilson's nationalism had st ...more
Tamir Damari
Dec 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book breaks your heart, but in a good way. DeBernieres' has a beautiful, eloquent, lyrical style, the effect of which is augmented by the tragic nature of much of his content. He also imbues his story with much pathos and humor. By doing so, he avoids heavy-handedness.

Birds Without Wings is a marvelously ambitious book. It is a epic about conflict and coexistence between Muslim and Christian Turks, Kurds and Armenians, set over the course of decades.

The book is historically informative, a
A. Dawes
Feb 25, 2017 rated it did not like it
I have an unusual relationship with de Benieres' novels. I loved the lyrical Captain Correlli's Mandolin (the film is a disaster, with Nicholas Cage giving possibly the worst performance in cinematic history), but the novel itself has it all: humour, tragedy, love, war, relationships and history. I enjoyed the wit and colour of The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts. But after three reading swings at The Partisan's Daughter, I eventually struck out on what could only be defined as overly twee ma ...more
Mar 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It's now on my list of all-time favorites.

The writing is lush and gorgeous and witty and empathetic. The many characters come alive and are very compelling. The setting is a little village in southwest Turkey, not too distant from Symrna (Izmir), and the time is the WW I period. The story is mostly told from the point of view of the various villagers and occasionally from the view of Mustafa Kemal (on his way to becoming Ataturk).

We get a fascinating view of Turkish village li
Sonia Gomes
Oct 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone, just about everyone
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I could not get into this book.

I read and loved Corelli's Mandolin but never felt any of the same attachment to the characters in Birds. This one was a disappointment for me.
Judith E
That such a place existed and the way it was lost, is heartbreaking. This is a story of the complicated and complex cultural bag called the Ottoman Empire and its emergence as Turkey. What a revealing story beautifully told by Mr. Bernieres. I bogged down midway through during the war scenes, but once past that point it was a race to the end. On to an easy and mindless read after this epic story.
Sep 01, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well I would like to put three and a half stars for this book.

This book is about the last years of the Ottoman Empire and the author simultaneously contrasts the happenings of the international political world with that of a small cast-away village where Greek Christians and Turkish Muslims lived side by side.

Being from Greece, you are 'taught' that the Ottoman Empire was an evil and repressive empire and hence why Greeks hate Turks and visa versa. What de Bernieres succeeds in doing is not be
Amanda Patterson
Nov 16, 2010 rated it did not like it
Louis de Bernieres won the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Best Book, 1995 for Captain Corellis' Mandolin. I doubt whether Birds without Wings will win any kind of prize or much praise.
This is a sprawling novel set against the background of the collapsing Ottoman empire, the Gallipoli campaign and the ensuing struggle between Greeks and Turks that resulted from World War I.
I was overwhelmed by all of this and underwhelmed by the awful cliched ‘narrator’ style employed by de Bernieres. When I read a
Apr 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommended to El by: Marieke
Shelves: 21st-centurylit
This was a book I read without any previous knowledge of the story, other than what my friend Marieke told me which was just her impression of the book. I agree with much of what she said, except I rarely cry while I read, and this was no exception; though the story did touch me immensely in parts. In addition to knowing little of the actual story before reading it, I admit to knowing little of the events within the story - the Battle of Gallipoli, for example. I must have missed those days that ...more
George Thomas
Jun 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing

I have read a number of books by de Bernieres the first being Captain Corelli's Mandolin, (I enjoyed both the book and the film) I then went on read The War of Don Emmanuel's Nether Parts, then The Troublesome Offspring of Cardinal Guzman (two of his Colombian trilogy) which I didn’t particularly enjoy as they were in the magical mystery genre of Gabriel García Márquez, whom Bernières greatly admires. However I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Birds without Wings’ and was blown away by the vast amount of his
Birds without Wings is well researched, accurate historical fiction!
Set in Asia Minor at the end of the Ottoman Empire which coincided with WW1, there were ethnic Greeks living in Asia Minor who spoke Turkish better than Greek or even no Greek at all.
There were ethnic Turks living in Greece who spoke Greek better than Turkish or even no Turkish at all.
There were Greeks living in Russia, Turks living in the Balkans and all around this time some people started saying " Greece for the Greeks, Tu
Amanda Rae
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-favorites
"Beautiful" is an accurate word to describe this book that hardly does it justice. As a lover of history, anthropology, good storytelling, and especially Turkish culture, this book satisfied me and then some. It is an exceptional portrayal of the struggles that everyday people underwent during the strange time between the end of the Ottoman Empire and the dawn of Atatürk's republic, when superficial lines were drawn up between people who had lived for centuries comfortably next to and around eac ...more
Feb 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Beautifully written and historically accurate. Give it some time.
“The people who remained in this place have often asked themselves why it was that Ibrahim went mad. I am the only one who knows, but I have always been committed to silence, because he begged me to respect his grief, or, as he also put it, to take pity on his guilt.”

Set in southwestern Anatolia (today Turkey) before and during World War I, Birds Without Wings is a wonderful novel about a small village and the people who live there. Prior to the war, the community is made up of Muslims and Chr
Dana Stabenow
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
The story of how modern Turkey came to be, as told through the life of a village near Fethiye, Telmessos that was, on Turkey's Mediterranean coast. Turkey really is the crossroads of continents, which only means that it has been the marching ground of armies since civilization began. de Bernieres' description of the fighting and the atrocities before, during and after World War I leave you feeling that no matter how horrible was the forced relocation of Greek Turks to Greece and Turkish Greeks t ...more
Jan 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A great book. I became utterly engrossed in the lives of the Muslim and Christian villagers in SW Turkey in the waning years of the Ottoman Empire. I spent time near where the village was located and the descriptions were spot on and made me miss it. Sometimes funny, frequently tragic and always moving.
Jul 05, 2018 added it
Shelves: abandoned
Since I only got to page 181 and then DNF, I will not rate this.

The writing is exceptional and in that high count, lyrical to fine drawn and ethnic specific characterizations well done- long word count copy style. The style that many other readers find most masterful and nearly poetic in flows. But that in this context of story and characters have left me nearly numb.

The place and the people seem so petty, mean-spirited and tied up in multiple traditional minutia of every ilk (religion being o
Nov 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
The last 10% was a lot!

I sincerely enjoyed the stories. I learned a lot about what went on during the first World War and the war with the Greeks afterwards, in Turkey. There was so much that happened, it was really almost hard to take it all in. I absolutely loved the characters and the names of the people in the small village of Eskibahce.
I thought about giving this book an extra star because of the lovely descriptive writing, but in terms of plot and characterization, I would actually rate this quite low. The plot is simply a retelling of the "ethnic cleansing" of Greek-speaking Muslims and Turkish-speaking Orthodox Christians that occurred in Greece and Turkey after World War I, and the characters never felt like more than mouthpieces for the author's outrage at the suffering inflicted on thousands of completely innocent people ...more
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Novelist Louis de Bernières was born in London in 1954. He joined the army at 18 but left after spending four months at Sandhurst. After graduating from the Victoria University of Manchester, he took a postgraduate certificate in Education at Leicester Polytechnic and obtained his MA at the University of London.

Before writing full-time, he held many varied jobs including landscape gardener, motor

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