Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks // Book Review
“Some crime against nature is about to be committed. I feel it in my veins. These men and boys are grocers and clerks, gardeners and fathers - fathers of small children. A country cannot bear to lose them.”
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.
I first read Birdsong when I was at school studying war poetry in English and was told this book would give me a good insight into the reality of the First World War. It's one of the only books that has haunted me since I finished it all those years ago. The events leading up to and including the war are written so vividly, I found myself quite affected by what I was reading and it was this novel that led to my still ever-present passion for war fiction.
Birdsong is a tough book to read - not just because it's relatively hefty - but because the issues of war and love are laid out so honestly, they can be quite hard to stomach. Faulks refuses to hold back on the detail - this isn't just about telling the tale of a gory war with blood and guts, it's about emotion; fear and hope and grief. It also highlights the sacrifice soldiers made all those years ago and the utterly selfless and dangerous things they had to do to keep those at home safe. This is edge-of-your-seat stuff, the kind that will follow you around long after you've turned the last page, making you pick it up and read it again and again. If you've not already given it a go, I highly recommend you do, I cannot imagine you'll regret it.