Hey my fellow netizens,
I am so sorry I have not updated this blog in over 2 months. It is needless to say that life has been hectic and difficult. However, I have had this book review as a draft since October and I thought it was grand time to release it. It might have been nicer to do so on Veterans' Day in memorial of those who fought the war. Unfortunately, timing was difficult. I can't promise that I will make many more book reviews but I will try my best. In the meantime enjoy, heart and feel free to leave a comment.
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. His life goes through 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.
What I liked:
Wow, there is so much to say that I don't even know where to start. I think that first and foremost, the strength of this book lies in the characterization. No one is perfect yet you can really feel their humanity leap out of the novel. When Faulks starts describing the war, you really start to feel a strong kinship for the soldiers mentioned; even though, in all likelihood, you will have to bid goodbye to them. I am a great admirer of the effect storytelling has on fomenting human connections and transcending socially created barriers (such as race, citizenship, nationhood, class etc). I truly felt that in Birdsong, Faulks managed to effectively use storytelling to that effect.
For example, one of my favourite characters, whom I shall not reveal for fear of spoiling some people's read, had a nervous disposition that made me want to comfort them. Sadly, this same character dies later on in the book in spite of Faulks having spent a good two parts of the book describing the character, his background and his relationship with the protagonist. Needless to say that I cried a little.
I also enjoyed the vivid and quite graphic descriptions of World War I. Even if, I do have a personal issue with the fact that it is called "World War I" because it had European origins and they dragged everyone else into it. I often feel that stories occuring during World War II are so commonplace in our society that we forget how important WWI was in terms of modern warfare, literature, international relations and post-colonial movements. In the case of Birdsong, Faulks focuses more on the modern warfare and the psychological effect on the soldiers.
Finally, I really liked witnessing the generational drama and how Faulks describes the lives of the characters before, during and after World War I. It was interesting to discover the perspective of someone who is living the in 1970s looking back on the war and trying to better understand her ancestors' choices.
What I disliked:
There is not much to dislike about this novel; however, I wish that there was more mention of the other nationalities that fought for Britain during World War I. I guess Faulks really wanted to focus on the British battalion I cannot blame him. Nonetheless, I generally feel there is a lack of literature accounting for the role that colonies played during the war.
The book is narrated by Peter Firth, and I must say he did an excellent job. There are times, he spoke a little fast but otherwise, his voice was engaging and pleasant to listen. Additionally, considering that the audiobook is over 15 hours long, it is a demonstration of his strong narrative capacity. I am glad that this was my first audiobook.
Rating: I gave this book 5 stars out of 5, because I am sure I will re-read or re-listen to it. I personally feel that there is a lack of emphasis on World War I literature and I immensely enjoyed the experience of reading this book. I would recommend this book to everyone; however, I must warn there is some NSFW content at the beginning.