Some books are haunting by virtue of their subject matter and others by virtue of their prose. Birdsong is haunting by virtue of both.
It relates the story of a young Englishman caught up in the euphoria of elicit love and then dammed to the trenches of World War I. It is a story of a man transformed in sad and almost unspeakable ways and of the life that is stolen from him. He loses the woman he loves to her sense of righteousness and decency; he loses his spirit to the war and to the horrible images of men clawing in earth and impaled on wire fences; he returns to England broken and withdrawn. Wars generate memorable tales and this is one of the most memorable of the horror that was WWI. In Faulks’ own words: “No human being had seen such mechanical slaughter before: the shelling and machine-gunning, for no very obvious reason, of 10 million men from neighbouring countries. How would a man process this experience?”
Mostly, they endured and then they came home and fell silent. In Birdsong, it’s the granddaughter who ferrets out many of the memories as she struggles to understand a generation once removed. Faulks has written a classic, a book that stands as a warning against the brutality of war and a testament to the beauty and strength of love.
Birdsong has been adapted for radio, stage and television and earned Faulks recognition as Author of the Year from the British Book Award in 1995.