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Archives > Labour 6: To Slay the Stymphalian Birds

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message 1: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Robitaille | 933 comments The Myth

Eurystheus, seeing Hercules coming out of the necessary shower following his Augean task, swiftly assigned him to another Labour. This time, he had received complaints from concerned citizens that Artemis, this animal-loving collector, had let some of her pets breeding out of control, and they were now terrorising her neighbourhood, with reports of fatalities in the community. Hercules had to go and get rid of the nuisance ASAP. “What type of pets are we talking about?”, asked Hercules. “Just birds, mate, just birds”, retorted Eurystheus, eschewing a smirk.

So Hercules picked up his poisoned arrows and went on his merry way toward the swamp adjacent to Artemis’ farm. He could distinguish from afar swarms of birds, with glinting beaks and metallic feathers, diving kamikaze-style on anything which contained some life, whether crops, fruits, animals, even humans, ravaging and scavenging everything in their sight and bringing the spoils back to their huge nest located in the middle of the swamp. A few hundred metres before reaching the swamp, he saw a sign reading: “Caution – Stymphalian Birds – Poisonous Dung”. Luckily, Hercules brought his crash helmet and, once behatted, undertook to cross the marsh and approach their nest.

Unfortunately, he forgot to bring his gumboots and realised he couldn’t cross the swamp and disturb the nesting birds. Athena, who probably initially put the complaint in, was passing by and, seeing that Hercules needed something to attract the birds, gave him a pair of castanets. Befuddled, Hercules slowly started to play the castanets and, reminiscing a recent junket in Andulasia, produced a fiery flamenco in the zambra style. The birds, thinking that their next meal was wiggling in the horizon, left their nest and took flight. Hercules only had to use his arrows and systematically shoot them down. Too easy…

As proof of the task’s completion, Hercules brought back two birds and, showing them to Eurystheus, sang: “I feel like Chicken Tonight!”

The Books

For your sixth Labour, which of these avian-themed stories will you choose as your aim and shoot through its pages like a skeet clay target?

The Birds Fall Down (Rebecca West) 3 points
Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks) 3 points

To earn the points associated with either book, you can only read and review the chosen book between 2017-06-01, midnight EST (New York) and 2017-06-30, midnight EST (New York). You should post your reviews below, clearly identifying which book you are reviewing.


message 3: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Robitaille | 933 comments You can now start the sixth Labour.


message 4: by Diane (new)

Diane  | 2042 comments Birdsong

Rating: 5 stars
Read: June 2017

I loved this book, but it apparently isn't for everyone (most of my GR friends did not love it). It is definitely not an original plot. It has a lot of themes common in many romance and historical fiction books (view spoiler). Nevertheless, I think it is a beautifully told story told with great pacing and descriptive language. Some of the details of life in the trenches during WWI are a bit graphic, but I don't feel that these details are gratuitous since they paint a picture of the atrocities of war.


message 5: by John (new)

John Seymour Birdsong
3.5 stars

<(view spoiler)


message 6: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Robitaille | 933 comments Birdsong (Sebastian Faulks) *** 1/2

As the subtitle correctly points out, this was a novel about love and war. But after completing it, I am left with the feeling that the disjointed parts of this book don't actually mesh quite well together. The WWI graphic descriptions provide another vivid example of this terrible conflict; the love story between Stephen and Isabelle was quite passionate and (stereo)typically French. The storyline of Elizabeth, despite its obvious relation with the love and war stories, felt a bit out of place; it felt like mending a garment perfectly with a thread of the wrong colour.


message 7: by Diane (new)

Diane Zwang | 1248 comments Mod
The Birds Fall Down by Rebecca West
5 stars

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 set off on a train ride and meet a man that will forever change the course of their journey. There are many themes to this novel. 1) Relationships: Husband and wife; father and daughter; employer and employee. 2) Political: tsarists and revolutionary. 3): Nationalism: France, England, and Russia. Throughout the novel there is an underlying theme of loyalty and who to trust. I was engaged throughout, invested in the relationships and curious to see how it would all come together. A well written novel.

“Do not believe what this fool has said about the Tsar. He is speaking of him as if her were a man. So he is, but he is the man chosen to be an intermediate between God and Man, and he takes on himself the guilt of earthly power, so that other men, unsullied by political action, can the more easily work out the destiny which in the end brings them to reconciliation with God.”


message 8: by Book (new)

Book Wormy | 1989 comments Mod
Birdsong Sebastian Faulks
★★★★

The book follows the life of one man Stephen Wraysbury as he falls in love for the first time and then ends up fighting in the trenches of WW1.

There are often brutal descriptions of death and injury suffered by the men in the trenches and there is an underlying feeling that the war is a needless sacrifice of life for both sides. I like how the book captured the feelings of the men, the way they felt the normal world could never understand what they had seen and lived through, this felt completely real and raw.

The love story side of things was touching but not as touching as the love and friendship the men felt for each other as they helped each other survive or to die knowing they were not alone.


message 9: by Pip (last edited Jun 28, 2017 01:26AM) (new)

Pip | 1411 comments The Birds Fall Down Rebecca West 4 stars

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 the grandfather of our heroine, about the differences between the Russian and the English soul become tedious but other sections fascinate like a good whodunnit. Some of the descriptions are quite sublime, but others are less compelling. Overall, the fascinating historical background to the story, the sang-froid of the main character and the uncertainty about whether she has reached the right conclusions, kept this reader engaged to the end.


message 10: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Robitaille | 933 comments The time period to complete the sixth Labour is over. Any reviews posted after this comment will not count for the purpose of this challenge.


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