Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks (1993)
This promised to be a fantastic war time novel about love and loss – many people urged me on when I was forty pages in and struggling to cope with Faulk’s monotonous tone. ‘It gets better!’ they promised. ‘It’s brilliant!’
Admittedly, it was the affair that made me read Birdsong ravenously. So much passion! When the war FINALLY came – it’s a long, dragged out book – the novel turned in on itself. At last! A fairly good book.
Many people have said that they didn’t really know anything about World War One and were shocked at the details in Birdsong. I was expecting it from the start, so wasn’t too upset when people died. It was heart wrenching, of course, but I didn’t cry. I purposely avoided falling in love with any of the characters because I knew they were going to die. (Not that there was anything to connect me to the characters much anyway.)
The most poignant scene for me was when Stephan and Jack were trapped, seemingly in their last moments, underground. I liked Jack the most and wanted to see him survive. It seemed all too convenient that the war ended just as the Germans dug through. The novel should have ended here, once Stephen was free.
Instead, it reverted back to the other storyline in 1987, which I really didn’t like. Although this ‘present day’ story line provided breathing space, I found the storyline predictable and not overly special. I was extremely disappointed with the actual ending. The whole strand seemed unnecessary.
Birdsong is a good novel, but not the best. It is overrated. Faulks could have made it perfect by cutting out 1978 and even some of the dragging war scenes. I feel as if I should love it, but I don’t.
In fact, war stories written for children, by Michael Morpurgo, are more impactful. Private Peaceful and Alone on the Wide, Wide Sea’ were so much better. But I’ve found that with children’s authors. They often give you a lot to relate to, and your emotions go completely overboard. Yes, I’m talking about you, Garth Nix and Philip Reeve.