I very much enjoy books about war and hardship. I'm not sure which part of me craves knowing the darker side of the human condition, but there is something very powerful about these kind of stories. I think knowing that actual people lived it is what grabs me.
Birdsong is an excellent representation of The Great War, or WWI. It is dark and luminous. It captures the pain of being separated from loved ones on many different levels, and the scenes in the trenches were as gruesome as I expected they would be.
It is a stark contrast from the beginning part of the novel, which I posted about here. In the beginning of the novel, the thought of war, death, and destruction is far from the minds of the main characters. Instead, they are consumed by their own love and desire.
When the narrative switches from love and romance to the trenches of WWI, the novel takes a steep turn in the other direction. It no longer has the beautiful romantic prose, but instead the reader is greeted by stark descriptions of war. Before I began reading, I did a little research on the title. The one thing I found over and over again is that the trench warfare descriptions were some of the most accurate and the most disturbing passages in WWI literature. And while I am not incredibly familiar with ALL WWI lit, I will say that some of the images in the war scenes really got to me. It is hard to imagine that people LIVED in those trenches with such horrid conditions for so long...
Overall, I really loved the novel. It was very passionate and moving.
However, there was one massive issue in the story-telling that I didn't like. After the first part, which was set during the war, the novel then flips between focusing on Stephen in the trenches during the war, and another narrator living in the 1970s. While there is a connection between the two, I found that the later sections jolted me from what I felt the really story was about.
That being said, Faulks did a masterful job combining the two and I walked away understanding why he chose to create the story in that way. It was still powerful and a great representation of the era, in addition to doing something new and wonderful. I definitely recommend giving this one a try of you are at all interested in the era-you won't be disappointed!
*This has been sitting in my drafts folder for weeks. I apologize for the delay.*