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Birdsong: Movie Tie-in Edition    by Sebastian Faulks order for
by Sebastian Faulks
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2012 (1996)
Hardcover, Softcover, Paperback, Audio, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Elizabeth Crowley

Englishman Stephen Wraysford arrives in Amiens, France in order to visit a textile factory his employer is interested in investing in. The owner of the company, Rene Azaire, welcomes Stephen into his home hoping to impress him and to expand his company. But Stephen's interest in Rene's company wanes the minute he lays eyes on his wife, Isabelle. Stephen and Isabelle's unconventional and passionate romance will take readers on an exhilarating journey.

Birdsong transitions through three generations as Sebastian Faulks introduces his characters. The novel begins in 1910 in Amiens, France with Stephen and Isabelle's story. Faulks does a superb job of hooking his readers with this provocative love story which will sweep them away into a world of forbidden romance.

Faulks' novel consists of three parts. After Stephen and Isabelle's romance, the story moves to 1916 as readers are taken into the midst of World War I. Birdsong contains some intensely written battle scenes that will impress those fascinated by military history. Faulks' characters faithfully portray the indestructible friendships that blossomed during the worst atrocities of war. Stephen Wraysford appears again in this WW I section. However, war has transformed him from the romantic gentlemen met at the beginning of the novel.

Part three moves to 1978 when readers are introduced to Elizabeth Benson. At thirty-eight, Elizabeth remains unmarried, but is hopelessly in love with a married man named Robert, who has no intention of leaving his wife. As Elizabeth ponders the future of her relationship with Robert, she finds comfort in researching her family history, especially that of her grandfather, Stephen Wraysford. Elizabeth discovers that her grandfather fought during World War I when she finds a bundle of journals which once belonged to Stephen. However, these journals and what she discovers through her own research conflict.

Sebastian Faulks dazzles readers with heart-stopping and intense battle scenes. His presentation of World War I is graphic and haunting. Although Stephen and Isabelle's romance is the masterpiece of the novel, their story is put on the back-burner for the majority of the book. I found this slightly disappointing, and Elizabeth's story failed to capture my attention. Though it served a purpose in wrapping up Isabelle and Stephen's story, her character development was weak.

I also found the jumping back and forth through time distracting and inappropriate at times. I felt the novel would have been a much better read if the author had allowed the narrative to flow smoothly instead of jumping from one decade to another and then back. Birdsong is nonetheless an impressive novel which is worthy of its adaptation into a two part miniseries on PBS. The miniseries will air on April 22, 2012 and April 29, 2012.

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