Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reading Assignment Challenge - January Complete

I have read both of the books I chose for January in the Reading Assignment Challenge: All Quiet on the Western Front on January 2 and Birdsong today.

This is only the second book I have read this year but I have to say it is a favorite.  I have had this book on my shelves for years and I thought I had read it, but as I perused my shelves for this challenge, I picked it up and flipped through it realizing I had no idea what it was about.  If I have in fact read it previously then my mind must have been elsewhere.

As mentioned with All Quiet on the Western Front, I have been on a World War I kick.  This is set during the war but it does flash forward to 1978.  Not only is this a war story, but it is a love story which in itself is somewhat a war story.

The protagonist is Stephen Wraysford.  As the novel opens he leaves England to visit a factory in France.  While he lives with the factory owner's family, he has an affair with the wife.  Eventually they leave together, but when she discovers she is pregnant she leaves him.  The other story involves their granddaughter in 1978.  The remaining six sections of the book go back and forth with World War I and Elizabeth's search to find out more about her grandfather.

The tragedy of the war is compounded with the tragedy of Stephen's life.  At times the book is truly heartbreaking.

"No one in England knows what this is like.  If they could see the way these men live they would not believe their eyes.  The is not a war, this is an exploration of how far men can be degraded."

From Amazon
Published to international critical and popular acclaim, this intensely romantic yet stunningly realistic novel spans three generations and the unimaginable gulf between the First World War and the present. As the young Englishman Stephen Wraysford passes through a tempestuous love affair with Isabelle Azaire in France and enters the dark, surreal world beneath the trenches of No Man's Land, Sebastian Faulks creates a world of fiction that is as tragic as A Farewell to Arms and as sensuous as The English Patient. Crafted from the ruins of war and the indestructibility of love, Birdsong is a novel that will be read and marveled at for years to come.

FrFrom Publishers Weekly

In 1910, England's Stephen Wraysford, a junior executive in a textile firm, is sent by his company to northern France. There he falls for Isabelle Azaire, a young and beautiful matron who abandons her abusive husband and sticks by Stephen long enough to conceive a child. Six years later, Stephen is back in France, as a British officer fighting in the trenches. Facing death, embittered by isolation, he steels himself against thoughts of love. But despite rampant disease, harrowing tunnel explosions and desperate attacks on highly fortified German positions, he manages to survive, and to meet with Isabelle again. The emotions roiled up by this meeting, however, threaten to ruin him as a soldier. Everything about this novel, which was a bestseller in England, is outsized, from its epic, if occasionally ramshackle, narrative to its gruesome and utterly convincing descriptions of battlefield horrors. Faulks (A Fool's Alphabet) proves himself a grand storyteller here. Enlivened with considerable historical detail related through accomplished prose, his narrative flows with a pleasingly appropriate recklessness that brings his characters to dynamic life.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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