Birdsong by Sebastian Faulkes

Rarely has a book aroused such strong feelings and such unanimous praise from the group. Moving, powerful, compelling, vivid were some of the words used to describe this “must read” book.

Accidentally the club discussion came after the month in which a TV adaption was shown. There was agreement that the book is far better- a couple were taken aback by the changes. Curiously the film and the book have different endings. While the film explicitly introduces the hero to his young daughter at the end of the film the book infers this happens as his granddaughter is an integral part of the story..

Birdsong according to Faulkes is part of his French trilogy, two of which are set in wartime; Birdsong in the First World War and Charlotte Grey in the Second. Essentially Birdsong is in three parts. First part when hero, Stephen falls for the French wife of his host and runs off with her; secondly Stephen’s experiences in the war and thirdly Stephen’s granddaughter discovering about Stephens life.

The wartime scenes are very graphic and one member felt they were so harrowing that she couldn’t read the book. Most felt that they were moving and gave some insight into trench life. Several were re-reading the book and some had decided that it was so good they wanted a copy in their own collections.

One member commented that looked at coldly the First World War was so horrific because of the accident that defence had outstripped offence. It took the invention of the tank to redress the balance.  Others felt that class led to the soldiers being seen as little more than cannon fodder.

Although the main character Stephen is described as the hero above it was commented that he was very much a flawed hero. This was probably a result of his upbringing after his parents died while he was young. This was felt to add to the feeling of truth in the book.

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