I originally picked this book up thinking it would in some way relate to my obsession with Downton Abbey. I'd caught a few minutes of an episode of the PBS mini-series and just assumed it would be similar. I can tell you now that I was wrong, but if you are a fan of Downton Abbey I can also already say that you will enjoy this novel and the mini-series based on it. So if you're looking for something to pacify you until the next series, look no further.

With that said, I spent a lot of time reading this book - I began reading it somewhere at the beginning of my last semester in college and hadn't the time to devote to it, as you'd expect. I picked it up again as soon as finals were over, and here we are.
Birdsong follows Stephen Wraysford, a young Englishman who has fallen in love with Isabelle Azaire, the wife of a French aristocrat. The two begin an intense, passionate, but ultimately ill-fated affair. Years later, Stephen returns to France to fight in World War 1. Sebastian Faulks does a magnificent job of bringing the war - a war that I always thought deserved more attention - right into our lap in all of it's gritty, horrific details. I can't think of any other way to explain it, but this whole novel seems much more like a first hand account than something the author dreamed up after  doing a lot of research. Of course, Sebastian Faulks was a seasoned journalist before he became a writer, so this explains why he is so good at that.
Birdsong is not a novel for readers who like their books to read like an action movie. Birdsong is for readers who have the imagination to taste and smell and feel whatever savory words the author uses. I guess you could say that this novel is paced - which is a nicer way of saying it's slow. I prefer "slow" novels myself, and nothing makes me happier than an author who will use pages and pages of text to perfectly and beautifully describe something as simple as a mud puddle, rather than just saying "it was a mud puddle." Not that Faulks actually does this, but you get the picture. He can do that. Faulks can validate the mundane.

What I loved/hated the most about this novel were the cliff hangers. I know, that's a weird thing to feel bittersweet about (no one loves cliff hangers, but we all just kind of put up with them, right?) Faulks cuts us off during the most emotionally intense scenes - and I do mean emotionally intense (more on this later) - and then never really brings us back to where it left off. BUT I appreciate that the author can build up these high feelings in us, the readers, for people who aren't even real. Honestly, I felt devastated each time - I'm pretty sure I cried some ugly-faced tears over them, too. Though the ending felt a little underwhelming to me.
But speaking of emotionally intense - and I saved the best for last, you guys - the sex scene. Fun fact about me, I hate books with sex scenes, and I especially hate books where characters are having affairs. I'll break the rules for this book, though. Here's why I hate books with sex scenes: almost no one can write them properly. It can be any combination of embarrassing, awkward, scientific, raunchy, gross, smarmy, over-dramatic, or just flat out dumb. Not this one. Nope. This one near bout gave me a fit of the vapors. I know, I know, and all my friends have been giving me a hard time because of this, but hear me out. NO ONE can write a good sex scene. It just isn't done, it just isn't possible. This book had the only actually sexy sex scene I've ever read.

Get your fix - here & here.

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