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The Birds Fall Down

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  267 Ratings  ·  38 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
ebook, 416 pages
Published December 21st 2010 by Open Road Media (first published 1966)
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John 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
May 24, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fearless students of history

4 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 not
Starts out as an everyday story of upper-middle class/upper class folk in early 20th century Britain told from the point of view of the adolescent daughter.

There are intimations of the husband and wife having a strained relationship, as the wife departs for France with her daughter to met her elderly Russian Father. He was a senior government official and the story slowly opens out in to a wider political story taking in the crisis in the Russian socialist-revolutionary party after the Azef sca
Jun 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The subject of this novel was an intrigue based on real events we are informed in the introduction. The story is seen from the viewpoint of an insightful but naive eighteen year old girl, whom the author skilfully portrays as sometimes unaware of what is happening while her observations give hints to the reader. The developments pit a Russian revolutionary against a Russian reactionary with a dialectical discussion thrown in for good measure. There are passages where the discussion, usually from ...more
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, this was a real find. I am eager to read more of Rebecca West based on my experience with this one.
Manik Sukoco
Dec 24, 2015 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
Diane Zwang
Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres and I was so happy to finally get one from the list. This novel and author are new to me and I am glad that I liked them both. Rebecca West has several books on the list and I look forward to reading them all.

Set in time during the fall of Tsarists Russia and the rise of communism, the novel is about exiled Count Nikolai living in France. The story centers around Nikolai, his granddaughter Laura, and Nikolai's assistant Kamensky. Nikolai and Laura
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
I think it will be amazing ...........
this is what my friends told me........
Claire Goodbody
Oct 04, 2014 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
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.
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Be warned: some long and tedious political and religious speech-ify! But, despite this, I ended up enjoying the book -- some beautifully detailed descriptions and even some laugh out loud moments (e.g. “Human beings have produced nothing more persistently and in greater quantities than excrement.”).

I've never read anything quite like it, maybe because I've never read a Rebecca West book before. I plan to read more.


“All other winters, it had been wonderful to go into the drawing-room and find
Whitney Price
Apr 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A moving read

A story about a girl who happens to leave her childhood behind and becomes embroiled in a political plot most foul. I was not expecting to be taken by this book, until about half way through when the intrigues of the story found me. Russian spies, terrorist plots? Who can say no?? And all from the point of view of a proper young lady.
what a perfectly adequate novel with a perfectly depressing ending hidden as a happy one (think 'beauty and the beast')

truth be told, this book was neither bad nor good, just right there on the point when you can't think of anything wrong nor anything exceptional--perhaps a hundred pages shorter and it would not have felt like such a chore at times

Oct 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredible book!!! Long conversations! Great conversations!
Jan 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 30, 2016 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
Jun 16, 2011 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
May 05, 2014 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
Mar 26, 2014 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
Dec 29, 2012 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
Sep 17, 2012 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.
Dec 04, 2014 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.
Andrew Weitzel
Aug 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A suspenseful story set in the period preceding the Russian revolution. Pretty good. There was one section that seemed to drag on for a little too long, but beyond that it's an enjoyable historical thriller. And it's by Rebecca West, so it has that very well written super-verbose style.
Katie Grainger
Jul 22, 2011 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.
Feb 01, 2013 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.
Jan 13, 2011 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.
Joseph Laizure
Jun 09, 2008 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.
Apr 08, 2008 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.
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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.” 13 likes
“Reason's a thing we dimly see in sleep. ” 9 likes
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