In preparation for my English Literature retake, I read Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks for this weeks book. It’s about 500 pages long (once again, I started it before Christmas) and about 300 pages too long in my opinion, not that anyone cares about that. The War bit is, disturbingly, the easiest part to read, in that it’s the most interesting. The 1910 and 1970s sections are a drag to get through.
I was originally going to give a brief summery of what happens throughout this book but then I remembered it was really long, I have two essays to do tomorrow and I do, in fact, love myself too much to do that. Also, it started bordering analysis territory, and I figured I could use that more for the practise essay for Birdsong I have planned out for this weekend. Apparently, I don’t love myself all that much.
You can’t enjoy this book. The descriptions of conditions are too accurate, the sound of the bombs too real, the pressing of the dirt walls from the underground tunnels too immediate to take any joy from reading this book. It’s not that you won’t enjoy reading it, but you won’t sit down at the end and go “wow, that was awesome, lets read it again.” More likely, you’ll finish it and have to go and research more about WW1 and the Tunnellers because nobody knew they existed.
In terms of characters, the main one, Stephen, isn’t likable. He’s a bit creepy, “curiosity” driving his motivation during the beginning of the War, and endlessly mocks Weir (I am unapologetic about Weir being my favourite character). Yet, because he is placed in this impossible situation, you have to like him.
I would feel guilty if I didn’t.
As I said, I can’t read this book for pleasure, because it is a very heavy read, about a very heavy subject. The end of section 6 is the worst part though.
We are introduced to some new characters, members of the German army. One of these characters, very patriotic and dedicated to his homeland. His brother ends up dying in the explosion that saved Stephen’s life. His name is Levi and he is Jewish.
Our hearts break for Levi, because we know there is something worse on the way and all of the horrors he, in particular, has just been through, the luck he had surviving this war, will be in vain.
Read this book if you like heartache and knowing the worst will happen. Don’t read this book if you like happy endings. None of the characters you actually care about will get one.
This Week’s Book: Paradise Lost by Milton.
You know when you read a book and you really like it, and suddenly it references a book you haven’t read, so you have to read the book in order to understand the reference?
That happened to me reading Frankenstein. So now I have to read Paradise Lost.