Birdsong+By+Sebastian+Faulks++Book+Review+1996+ - Book...

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1640 Am] Psychiatry 153:12, December 1996 FICTION Book Forum The books for this month are a holiday gift list: books to broaden the library and the mind, to provide pleasure and enjoyment, to give to oneself and others. REFERENCE 1 . Schama 5: Book review: S Faulks: Birdsong. New Yorker, April 1, 1996, pp 97-98 Birdsong, by Sebastian Faulks. New York, Random House, 1996 (originally published in I 993), 402 pp., $25.00. They say the novel is dead. Nonsense. If only one novel as good as this one came out in the century, you could not say the novel was dead. You could only say, well, maybe the birth rate has dropped a little. What a wonderful book! Where to begin? A young Englishman moves in with a French family to learn about manufacturing. The father is a successful manufacturer. The Englishman falls in love with the manufacturer’s wife. They have fantastic sex. They elope, if that’s the word when one of the elopers is married. She leaves the young man after a short time with no explanation. He feels cold, awful. Six years later, he’s a lieutenant in the trenches of the battle of the Somme. Over the next S months, the fighting at the Somme and at Verdun kill a million men. Men die at the rate of 277 an hour-five men a minute. (A chaplain, seeing what is happening, rips his crucifix from his neck and throws it on the ground. How could God permit this?) Our hero is not one of the victims, although he is wounded several times. He is strong, brave, lucky. After recovering from his wounds, he returns to battle, where at one point he helps in building tun- nels under the German lines. (Often just under or over the British tunnels, the Germans were building under and over the British lines; they could hear each other with stethoscopes.) No better scenes of trench warfare have ever been written, including All’s Quiet on the Western Front and The Red Badge of Courage. Before the book ends, the war is over and our lieutenant becomes a grandfather, but he never recovers from the war; he doesn’t talk for 2 years, and he dies at age 48. His 38-year-old granddaughter is a successful business- woman who lives in London with a married lover. She never met her grandfather. She pores over letters and diaries in the attic that he wrote during the war, and he becomes a kind of obsession with her. The book switches back and forth between the war and the granddaughter. It would be criminal to reveal the ending. 5ev- eral people I know cried when they finished the book, and one started to read it all over again. A New Yorker reviewer called the book beautiful and over- powering ( 1 ). He said it might not be perfect-but a great book. One can only speculate about whether he cried after reading an imperfect book. DONALD
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Birdsong+By+Sebastian+Faulks++Book+Review+1996+ - Book...

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