The Boulevard Du Cange was a broad, quiet street that marked the eastern flank of the city of Amiens.
–Sebastian Faulks - Birdsong - c.1993
The French trilogy ; 2
Set before, during, and after World War 1 Birdsong tells the story of a young Englishman. Staring before the war in France where he starts a passionate affair with a married woman. There is a jump in time and we meet Stephen in the trenches, and that storyline is then interspersed with that of Elizabeth’s, a woman in the late 70s in England.
I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up at all if it wasn’t a book club selection, and the first section I didn’t really enjoy. The story of Stephen and Isabelle didn’t really engage me, neither character held my interest, and so neither did their joint story.
But once the book moved to the trenches it really felt like it came to life. Strange when the story had so much death at that time, although maybe it makes sense, among all the waste of life you value it more.
And really the descriptions of the conditions in the trenches, the battles fought, the utter, utter waste, there are all beautifully written and so very moving. It is incredibly well written.
The storyline with Elizabeth… well, I could see where it was going and again I kindof switched off in some of her parts. She didn’t feel entirely real to me, and by the end of the book it seemed as though she was only there in order to produce the next generation.
So overall I don’t think the book really worked for me as a whole. Parts of it are brilliant and wonderful and heart-breaking, so it is well worth a read. And I think I will pick up the others in this “loose trilogy”. I don’t think you need them in order to understand everything, Birdsong certainly doesn’t feel like part of a series, so I would guess1 that it is more a trilogy of separate stories dealing with the same themes? Guess I’ll find out if ever I get around to the other two books.
I may be wrong ↩