This First World War novel of 1993 is a staple of reader’s group circuits up and down the country, and for good reason. Set in France before and during the conflict, it is the story of a young Englishman Stephen Wraysford who is propelled through a series of extreme experiences, including a traumatic love affair with Isabelle Azaire which tears apart the bourgeois French family with whom he lives. It blends an intense romanticism with an equally intense realism about life in the trenches. Faulks has really done his research on the horrific details of that man made hell on Earth. His account of the mining and counter-mining operations is particularly harrowing. In the foreground is the blood, the mud, the love, the savagery, the whole surreal insanity of war. In the background, the occasional tones of birdsong float from a Paul Nash type shattered landscape. The birds are singing still. The graves of 16 million men are mute to that song. The novel was brought to television in 2012 by Abi Morgan starring Eddie Redmayne and Clémence Poésy (, but please do read the novel first. Some novels are so well written they remain with you indefinitely. This one has haunted me for 20 years. Enquire at your local library or consult for further bibliographic detail.   528 pages in Vintage paperback First published 1993 ISBN 978-0099387916   Sebastian Faulks

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