Wider reading

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Birdsong ­ Sebastian Faulks (1993)
Birdsong is a 1993 novel by English author Sebastian Faulks. It tells of Stephen
Wraysford at different stages of his life in France both before and during World War I
hence the novels episodic structure which is split into seven sections and moves
between three different periods of time before, during and after the war. The novel
also focuses on the life of Stephen's granddaughter, Elizabeth, and her attempts to
find out more about her grandfather's experiences in World War I.
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.
France 1910
The first stage is set before the war in Amiens, France. Stephen stays with Azaire and
his family (Isabelle, Lisette and Grégoire). It is revealed that Isabelle is substantially
younger than Azaire and is his second wife. Azaire is embarrassed by his inability to
father a child with her and beats her in anger. Lisette, the child of Azaire's
first marriage, who is 16 years old, makes suggestive remarks to Stephen but Stephen
does not reciprocate.
Realising that their lives have been similar battles for self-determination which have
now crossed, Stephen and Isabelle engage in a passionate affair which they believe is
'right' and will last forever. Isabelle confronts Azaire with the truth and he evicts
Stephen, telling him that he will go to hell. Stephen and Isabelle run away but
Isabelle, finding she is pregnant, momentarily loses faith in the relationship. Without
telling Stephen, she flees, returning to her family home and the one constant in her
life ­ her sister Jeanne. Later, Isabelle's father makes a deal with Azaire for her return
in exchange for her maintained honour; Isabelle is forgiven but soon realises her

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Stephen hears no more of her and knows nothing of his child that she bears
(a girl called Françoise) and later raises with a German soldier called Max.
France 1916
We rejoin Stephen some years later as a lieutenant in the British Army and through
his eyes, Faulks tells the reader about the First Day on the Somme in July 1916 and
the Battle of Messines near Ypres in the following year.…read more

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Michael Weir, is eventually killed by a sniper's bullet while in a trench out of
the front line.
England 1978­1979
Elizabeth continues researching the war and talks to war veterans Gray and Brennan
(who knew Stephen) about their experiences. During this period, she also becomes
pregnant with Robert's child.…read more

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The book ends with Robert walking down the garden of the holiday cottage and
having an immense sense of joy.
Not So Quiet ­ Helen Zenna Smith (1930)
Not So Quiet: Stepdaughters of War was published in 1930 by Evadne Price, using the
pseudonym Helen Zenna Smith. The semi-biographical account of an ambulance driver
provides female account of the horrors of World War I.…read more

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France. A constant rivalry is present between Helen's mother and Mrs.
Evans-Mawington at Wimbledon Common over which of their kin has volunteered
themselves the most for the war. Tosh, a boisterous fellow volunteer, teases Helen on
the principal, "'No, Smithy, you're one of England's Splendid Daughters, of England's
Splendid Daughters you'll stay until you crock up or find some other decent excuse to
go home covered in glory.…read more

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All Quiet on the Western Front ­ E.M. Remarque
All Quiet on the Western Front is a novel by Erich Maria Remarque, a German veteran
of World War I. The book describes the German soldiers' extreme physical and mental
stress during the war, and the detachment from civilian life felt by many of these
soldiers upon returning home from the front.…read more

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At the very beginning of the book Erich Maria Remarque says "This book is to be
neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an
adventure to those who stand face to face with it. It will try simply to tell of a
generation of men who, even though they may have escaped (its) shells, were
destroyed by the war.…read more

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Kemmerich's mother and tells her, untruthfully, that her son's death was instant and
painless. At the end of his leave, Paul spends some time at a training camp near a
group of Russian prisoners-of-war. Paul feels that the Russians are people just like
him, not subhuman enemies, and wonders how war can make enemies of people who
have no grudge against one another.
Paul feels glad to be reunited with his comrades.…read more

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Regeneration ­ Pat Barker (1991)
Regeneration is the first of three novels in the Regeneration Trilogy of novels on
the First World War. The novel confronts the history of psychology and the real-life
experiences of British army officers being treated for shell shock during World War
I at Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh. It also focuses on the story of a
decorated English officer (Sassoon) sent to a military hospital after publicly declaring
he will no longer fight. Yet the novel is much more.…read more

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Part I
The novel begins with Dr. W.H.R. Rivers, an army psychiatrist at Craiglockhart War
Hospital (a mental institution at the time), reading poet Siegfried Sassoon's
declaration against the conduct and insincerities of the First World War. Sassoon's
"wilful defiance of military authority" has led to Sassoon being labelled as
"shell-shocked", a label which the authorities hope will discredit his views on the
continuation of the war as his letter clearly threatens to undermine the strength of
the war effort at home.…read more


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