Skip to main content

Anupama Prakash's Book Review: Bird Song – A Novel of Love and War by Sebastian Faulks

♥♥ This is the first Guest Post on Petals!. I thank Anupama Prakash with all my heart for writing this book review for Petals!  ♥♥

So, honestly I picked this book for the lame reason that it has been made into a mini-series and was featured on Masterpiece Theatre, a program close to my heart. Masterpiece Theatre, didn’t let me down and Sebastian Faulks’ s page turner outdid expectations.

Starting off pre World War 1 in France, we are quickly entwined in the life of Stephen Wraysford, the protagonist as he settles down as a guest in the Azaire household. Stephen, an orphan, is sent by his benefactor to learn the textile business from Monsieur Azaire. 



Stephen’s character unravels beautifully through the book, subtle personality nuances mingled with straight forward biographical detail, bringing this strong in convictions yet vulnerable in emotions, young man(he is barely 20 when the book begins) to life in our imaginations.

It’s easy to identify and sympathize with Stephen and I cheered him on as he flirts with and then has an affair with the enchanting yet unhappy lady of the house, Isabelle Azaire. 

Madame Azaire, is portrayed as an intrinsically free spirited, independent woman with very little opportunity to explore this side of her personality under first, her overbearing father and then her insecure husband.

Even though Stephen and Isabelle’s love story ends prematurely in the first part of the book, the ferocious intensity of having loved and lost , shapes the rest of Stephen’s experiences so much so that even the horrendous experiences of War are mere events superimposed on this love story. 

I have watched many War movies in the past and have been greatly affected by them but none come close to the emotions of horror Sebastian Faulks dredged up in me. People with weak sensibilities be warned this is not one for the faint hearted. The fears and foibles of ordinary folk, thrust into the extraordinary situation of a war have been dealt with, with brazenness. 

Man’s baser instincts aroused by the need to survive, co- habitating with the immense compassion and love that we are capable of feeling toward our fellow beings have been explored through parallel stories.

The author adds another dimension to this tale of Love and War, by taking the story to the 1970’s where we are introduced to Elizabeth, Stephen’s granddaughter. Elizabeth, is a successful career woman, who is looking for more meaning to her life and decided to delve into the past to begin to find it.

Personally, I was unhappy with this digression by the author. Elizabeth’s character seems like it was hastily thrown together by the author and adds, not sure what, to a book that is already filled to the brim with feelings and emotions.

The book ends with a simplicity that is welcomed after the upheavels of love and loss, death and destruction. Stephen goes on to lead a simple happy life after the War and Elizabeth finds stability and meaning to her life. 

About Anupama Prakash: 'Heard somewhere that in order to be a good writer , the most important quality required is that you be an avid reader, and I'm going with that!'  You can also follow Anupama Prakash on Twitter.



Liked this book review? Then check out these too:
Preeti Shenoy's novel 'The Secret Wishlist'  
♥♥ REQUEST: Please SHARE this article on your favorite social networks. Every share, like or tweet makes me reach out to more people.I am grateful and I appreciate you for doing so. ♥♥

Comments

Vishnu said…
Hi Anu - enjoyed reading this review. You've written a solid review covering all the main points. I hope there's more to come!

So just to make sure I got the story right - the protagonist is so heart-broken by his relationship that he finds that he can handle the horrendous experiences of war? That the pain of heartbreak trumps the pain of war? IF this is the case, lol, this is one book I need to read asap!

I don't immediately see why the granddaughter was brough into the book either. Sometimes authors are trying to tie in too many stories together or maybe she was low on the word count:)

Thanks again for this excellent review.
Anu Prakash said…
Hey Vishnu, Thanks for the comment. You bring up a good point. I think what the author was trying to convey was the numbness that we sometimes experience when we lose a personal war. The great war does affect him, but at some level he is not surprised at the lows people can skim!
Hey Vishnu,

Good to hear your thoughts on Anu's book review - you've nailed the significant points and got the big picture right. As always:)
Hi Anu,

Truly enjoyed reading your book review and especially the part where you have cautioned the reader, saying that it is not for people with weak sensibilities or for the faint hearted. Also liked the way you summed it here: "The fears and foibles of ordinary folk, thrust into the extraordinary situation of a war have been dealt with, with brazenness." What a flow!

How soon can you write the next book review.....that's really something I am looking forward to!
I was very pleased to find this web-site. I wanted to thanks for your time for this wonderful read.

Most Popular Posts

The Ugly Truth about Caste in Kerala

Many years ago, when I wrote this post on Kerala's caste system, I had not considered that I would receive such online abuse for writing this or that I would be seen as some one who was trying to insult other castes. The intention of writing is always to share an experience or a perspective, not to insult others.  My experience of motherhood and marriage would be different from yours. When I write about my experience, it is illogical to abuse me because our journeys are entirely different narratives. My life and yours are not the same at any given point of time.

My question is - why do you ABUSE any caste or person here? You are free to disagree but why do you ABUSE? How does that reflect on YOU?

In my article, I shared what trials I went through, without any intention to insult any community.A new book 'Ants among Elephants' written by Sujatha Gidla, who writes about herself as being born 'an untouchable in India' teaches you everything you probably want to know abo…

Mahamrityunjaya Mantra: Meaning, Benefit of Chanting and Who can Chant the Mantra

Mahadmrityunjaya Mantra: Benefit of chanting this mantra nee

There are very few mantras that are as powerful as the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra. Do read my post: Does Mahamrityunajaya mantra really work?Of course, it does but you need to undertstand the meaning and significance of the mantra first.
This mantra is believed to have the power to remove all sufferings, diseases and bestow the one who chants it with good health and long life. It is also believed that constant contemplation of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra can help spiritual aspirants to overcome the cycle of birth and death.
What got me fascinated about this mantra is something personal.  I learned this mantra from my father but it is my maternal grandmother who chanted it all the time and repeatedly told me of its tremendous power to protect. However, I did not chant this mantra regularly. [ Do READ: THE POWER OF LOVE]
But at the age of two, my son was taught some mantras by my mother who explained what it means to him and he becam…

Amazing Signs You are an Earth Angel

Doreen Virtue’s book, “Assertiveness for Earth Angels” brings to life the reality of Earth Angels in very easy way. It’s an exciting must-read! 

[DO READ: The POWER OF LOVE]

Earth Angels have amazing superpowers in: MusicArtsWriting HealingManifesting miracles for others such as controlling weather conditions and  becoming invisible at will.
[MUST READ: A Dad's Advice to the Daughter He loves]
DO READ: ASK MORE, FEAR LESS.

How to Identify Earth Angels by their Traits
To know whether you are an Earth Angel, take a look at their known traits that are explained in this book:


You have a graceful and compassionate aura that inspires people.Your presence “lifts” everyone to happier spirits – it is proof of who you really are.You don’t judge others but you overdo the “acceptance” bit. So, you tolerate even those who show no respect for boundaries.You cannot stand anyone suffering or being in pain. You are constantly “rescuing people” because it is in your nature to want to see everyone happy in …

Five ways to take charge of your anger

“It is wise to direct your anger towards problems -- not people; to focus your energies on answers -- not excuses.” ― William Arthur Ward
Every day, the newspaper headlines are full of scary stories of people killing each other over trivial things - mostly these incidents happen when individuals lose their temper and turn violent. In traffic jams across Noida in the evenings, people don't hesitate to walk out and hit each other.  At workplaces, colleagues lose their temper and say things that they regret later. During holidays with loved ones, small things set us off and we say things that damage relationships forever. No one stops anyone. Everyone likes a big, bad fight. It's great to vent. After all, what's the big deal about getting angry? After all, if you cannot express what pisses you off, how can you call yourself human? 


Does anger solve your problems? You know the answer!

If anger solved all the problems in the world, this world would have been a perfect place centur…

Mumbai Police Movie Review: Prithviraj breaks the typical 'hero' mold, challenges sexual stereotyping

Exploring a completely different dimension in his latest film Mumbai Police, Director Rosshan Anddrews delivers a fast-paced, thriller film after his award winning fims such as Udayananu Tharam, Notebook and others.



To flesh out the script written by Boby Sanjay, Rosshan Anddrews ropes in actors such as Prithviraj, Rahman and Jayasurya to portray three police officers: Antony Moses, Farhan and Aryan respectively.
The story begins with a phone call that Antony Moses (starring Prithviraj) makes to Farhan (starring Rahman) saying that he has solved the murder mystery of Aryan (starring Jayasurya). Just as he says this, there is an accident and Antony Moses loses his memory. From then, Farhan's attempt is to take Antony through people and places that are likely to trigger his memory so that they can solve the murder of their close friend and colleague Aryan. A series of events happen, almost hurtling us towards it.
And I am taking the liberty to hand out trophies for the following:
'M…

The Secret Wishlist by Preeti Shenoy

Have you ever been banished from your parents' good books because of a secret kiss when you were just sixteen?
Did you spend nearly all your life trying to win back the trust and approval of your parents for that one mistake you made?
Have you regretted your marriage that your parents rushed you into and you agreed out of sheer guilt? 
Have you ever made a secret wishlist with something like "have sex with someone other than husband" on it? 
Yes or no, don't miss reading Preeti Shenoy's recently released novel titled 'The Secret Wishlist.' 



From page one, you are bound to get pulled into Diksha's loveless marriage, her constant adjustments to Sandeep, a husband who expects everything to be done to suit his preference at all times and her need to feel valued as a person. There are so many instances when you would simply grit your teeth and wish that her boor of a husband would do something, anything, to just appreciate his wife. But no, that doesn't hap…

Power of Love

                  Love without a price tag, conditions attached or the fine print of debt 

At the age of five or six years, I told my Dad that I would never ever opt for an arranged marriage, especially the transactional ''bride seeing'' ceremony, where the bride is paraded around like a fancy showpiece before a bunch of curious strangers, who are more interested in how much gold she is wearing than her IQ.
Dad, being my ever patient, serene hero, just smiled that calm, soothing smile that some of you are already familiar with and he said, ''Sure, that's fine."
I was expecting a full flung family drama, a storm, maybe even being thrown out for the audacity of breaking the much-treasured family tradition. How dare a girl even say such a thing to her parents, right?
Nothing happened. Dad was so cool. Then it struck me - maybe I am adopted. That's why it doesn't matter so much to him. 
I did manage to summon the courage and ask Dad several times, "…

Gayatri Mantra as Panchamukhi: Get it right or let it go

Most people do not understand the importance of chanting the Gayatri mantra because they are not aware of its power. It is only when I began to read Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba's teachings that I learned how sacred and powerful the chanting of the Gayatri mantra is.
The Vedas represent the breath of God. The Gayatri mantra is the very basis of the Vedas. Try not to undertake chanting the Gayatri mantra as a light endeavor or as a hobby. It has to be chanted with faith, discipline and purity of mind and body. Be steady with your sadhana if you want to reap the spiritual dividend associated with the Gayatri mantra  and never once hesitate once you decide to do it.
Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba said that the Gayatri Mantra is referred to as Pancha Mukhi, the Goddess with five faces that represent the five pranas or life forces. Here's more on it.


Chant the Gayatri Mantra correctly: Pause Five Times Here are some important things to keep in mind while chanting the Gayatri mantra:

1. Wh…

Lost someone you loved? Powerful lessons I learned in 2018

Winter mornings, go away! Cloud skies, I don't want to wake up to you. Sometimes I feel that waking up is becoming harder each day. The sun looks like a pale yolk and I feel so blue. These early winter mornings are tough, I tell you!
[Do Read: A Dad's Advice to the Daughter He loves]




Now I don't know how these last months have been for you. For me, October has been the toughest month so far. My family lost a very dear and much loved person. It was a huge personal loss for me and nothing less than devastating for my parents. But this loss also taught me lessons that I can never forget. 

Beautiful memories live forever
My mother tells me that when she got married and came to her new home, it is my aunts (father's sisters) who made her feel most loved, cared for and welcome. My aunt Manivalima, who passed away in October, was more like a best friend to my mother. Their love towards each other was such that whatever my aunt would cook for lunch, she would send to my mother and…

Anju Sundarikal Malayalam Movie Review: Dulquar Salman in full throttle, Fahadh Faasil disappoints

Anju Sundarikal, as the title suggests 'Five Beautiful Women,' is a poignant anthology of five short films that celebrate five female protagonists and their tumultous lives. These five films play on different themes and emotions, and on the whole, it is an interesting anthology.

Anju Sundarikal - Sethulakshmi The first film, Sethulakshmi, is a heart-wrenching portrayal of sexual abuse of a small girl whose hobby is to collect newspaper clippings of newly wed couples from newspapers and she embarks on getting a similar photograph taken of herself with her best buddy from school. What appears as an innocent wish is the honeytrap that leads the little girl to understand the meaning of fear. 
Each scene in Sethulakshmi seemed to tear into my heart, particularly in a scene where the photographer's hands and glance linger a tad too obscenely on the innocent, unsuspecting girl whose eyes are filled with fear. There is another scene where she is so frightened that she curls up at the…