Set before and during the great war, 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. Over the course of the novel he suffers a series of traumatic experiences, from the clandestine love affair that tears apart the family with whom he lives, to the unprecedented experiences of the war itself.
Sebastian Faulks was born in April 1953. Before becoming a full-time writer in 1991, he worked as a journalist. Sebastian Faulks's books include A Possible Life, Human Traces, On Green Dolphin Street, Engleby, Birdsong, A Week in December and Where My Heart Used to Beat.
"It broke my heart." -- Matthew Lewis Buzzfeed "An amazing book - I have read it and re-read it and can think of no other novel for many, many years that has so moved me or stimulated in me so much reflection on the human spirit" -- Quentin Crewe Daily Mail "This is literature at its very best: a book with the power to reveal the unimagined, so that one's life is set in a changed context. I urge you to read it" -- Nigel Watts Time Out "So powerful is this recreated past that you long to call Birdsong perfect" -- Sue Gee The Times "With Birdsong Faulks has produced a mesmerizing story of love and war... This book is so powerful that as I finished it I turned to the front to start again" -- Andrew James Sunday Express
Sebastian Faulks was the 1994 British Book Awards Securicor Omega Express Author of the Year.
Curiously, it is the fighting in World War I more than World War II that resonates in the imagination of contemporary writers. Its now unimaginable and unimaginative killing fields, commemorated by the rows of simple white crosses, reverberates now as much as ever. Birdsong is possibly the finest example of this cross-fertilization, pipping Pat Barker and Geoff Dyer to the post. After beginning in Amiens, France, in 1910, the action of this much-praised novel shifts between the French battlefields of the First World War and suburban England in the late 1970s. It is both a passionate love story and a tale of camaraderie and isolation in war. (Kirkus UK)
Faulks's fourth novel, an English bestseller, is his second (after A Fool's Alphabet, 1993) to appear in the US: a riveting story of love - and incalculable suffering - during WW I. What could become mere period romance is transformed, in this writer's hands, into dramatized history with a power almost Tolstoyan. Faulks renders love as compellingly as war - as in the opening chapters, when 20-year-old Britisher Stephen Wraysford, on business in Amiens, falls passionately in love with the childless and unhappily married Isabelle Azaire, nine years his senior, and steals her away. This is in 1910, and when Isabelle, secretly pregnant, suffers from overwhelming guilt, she abandons Stephen, returning to her unloving husband; six years later, Wraysford is near Amiens again, now as a Lieutenant (soon Captain) with the British Expeditionary Force, preparing for battle in what is to be the butchery of the Somme valley. Isabelle and Wraysford will meet briefly again - and both will be changed forever by the catastrophic war about to sweep over humanity, changing entire generations. Fauiks's depictions of war in the trenches - and in the mazes of deadly tunnels beneath them - are extraordinary, graphic, powerful, and unsparing. Stephen will survive to war's end, and so will Isabelle, though not before both are changed beyond recognition, and doomed not to be rejoined again. The war, here, is Faulks's real subject, his stories of destroyed lives, however wrenching, only throwing its horror into greater relief and making it the more unbearable. An ending too neatly symbolic can be pardoned, while a denouement describing the birth of Wraysford's and Isabelle's great-grandson - in 1979, when their lost histories have been ferreted out by a granddaughter named Elizabeth, the new mother - is so perfectly conceived and delivered as to bring tears to the reader insufficiently steeled. Once more, Faulks shows his unparalleled strengths as a writer of plain human life and high, high compassion. A wonderful book, ringing with truth. (Kirkus Reviews)
Winner of Whitaker Gold Book Award 2001.
Winner of Enid McLeod Literary Award 1993.
Runner-up for The BBC Big Read Top 21 2003.
Runner-up for The BBC Big Read Top 100 2003.
Shortlisted for BBC Big Read Top 100 2003.
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