Book Review: Birdsong

Author: Sebastian Faulks

Genre:Historical Fiction

Published: 1993

Pages: 503

My Rating: ***3/5

Summary: “A novel of overwhelming emotional power, Birdsong is the story of love, death, sex and survival. Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman, arrives in Amiens in northern France in 1910 to stay with Azaire family,and falls in love with unhappily married Isabelle. But, with the world on the brink of war, the relationship faulters and Stephen volunteers to fight on the western front. His love for Isabelle forever engraved on his heart, he experiences the unpreceented horrors of that conflict- from which neither he nor any reader of this book can emerge unchanged.”

My Review: 

 We have our main character Stephen Wraysford, who initially works for a company in London and is sent to Amiens to learn different skills for his job. He stays with Azaire family who own the mill. There he meets Isabelle, a young woman married to his host, who is constantly abused by her husband, and passionately falls in love with her. She too reciprocates his feelings and they decide to run away together.

After a while though something happens, and Isabelle leaves Stephen.He waits for a year for her to come back, but she doesn’t. But Stephen is saved by the war and he goes to volunteer for his country. What follows is an extensive account of war, betrayal and tragedy and horrifying details of battle which is really difficult to digest.

Stephen eventually meets Isabelle and learns about her life after leaving him and finally gets his answer to his nagging question, whether she loved him or not?

Characterization : I found Stephen to be a very peculiar character. He is very complex and has too many layers in his characters. He is very romantic and youthful when he is Isabelle, but in battle he is very brave and courageous. He doesn’t want to leave war but knows that this is not a normal life and in his dreams he longs to live a normal life.

Isabelle is portrayed as a tortured wife who longs to be free of her bindings and discover her long forgotten youth and beauty. She longs to be loved by someone, touched, caressed and make love to someone who would love her back.She is a very deep and sensible character.

What I liked :The novel is very engrossing and moving. I found it emotional, violent and tragic. The characterization is brilliant. The accounts of battle scenes are very detailed and very horrifying to read.

What I disliked :There wasn’t any happy ending for me. I just found it too complicated.May be this novel is not for me.

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