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Birdsong on BBC 1 last night
edited January 2012
I thought this was fantastic. I haven't read the book though and wondered what people thought of this who have?
He's a patchy writer, as far as I'm concerned. Some of his stuff is fantastic (Birdsong) and others of his are not so good. I think they are quite different from each other and I think he enjoys experimenting.
Just read Engleby - about an emotionally stunted man. I found my involvement with the book was affected. Still enjoyed it though.
The television version missed out a lot of the story I found the dialogue very difficult to follow at times. Having said that, I thought the wartime scenes very moving. One of my mother's cousins lost TWO husbands in the trenches (the second, still only a boy, having promised to marry his best friend's widow 'to take care of her and the children') and her elder brother was crippled. That being the case, the Somme, Passchendaele, Ypres and the other great battles were names I grew up with and the futility of that whole episode in our history was well brought out in Birdsong.
I thought it was great as well, although the dramatization completely ignored the sections of the novel, set in the 1970's in which Elizabeth, Stephen Wraysford's grandaughter researched her grandfather's war experiences. However, allowing that it was only a two part series, I don't think it diminished the story, although there were other minor alterations to the plot. At the same time, I don't think that the dramatization captured the full horror of the fighting, especially the final underground sequence which Sebastian Faulks portrayed so graphically.
I actually had a special interest in this, because the scene of the opening day of the Battle of the Somme was set at Auchon Villers, near Beaumont Hammel, which was also the site, in the book, of a field hospital.
Some months later, Nov 13 1916, my fathers unit, 2/2 S.Midland Field Ambulance was attached to the 51st Highland Division outside Beaumont Hammel, and Dad went 'over the top' with the Highlanders that day in an effort to retake Beaumont Hammel from the Germans. Dad left a lengthy written account of these events, briefly as follows.
The Germans, for once, had been surprised by the attack, and the Highlanders reached the front line trenches almost unopposed,and cleared them with grenades. Dad's unit set up a dressing station in the German trenches, but eventually Dad was detailed as part of a stretcher party to take a badly wounded Highlander back to the field hospital at Auchon Villers, three miles away across the trenches and no-mans-land, pitted with craters There were eight stretcher bearers, including four German prisoners and Dad's job was to walk with his arm round the wounded man to keep him upright as he had shrapnel in his throat and would have bled to death. The fighting of course, continued, and many times they had to drop to the ground or take cover in craters and the three miles took them three-and-a-half hours and they lost one of their prisoners on the way, whom they presumed had been killed. Their patient survived the ordeal, and on reaching Auchon Villers, they also found the missing prisoner who had made his own way there.
The field hospital at Auchon Villers, was actually a cafe, and still operates as such today, and in Birdsong, (the book) Stephen Wraysford and Isobelle and her family, spent a summers day there in 1910
That's really interesting, snailmale.
My grandad served in the Great War. He didn't write his memories down but I taped him talking about his experiences. He served in Lowther's Lambs regiment and was wounded twice. He had a brother and brother in law killed in the fighting. The latter at Hell fire corner.
I thought it was really well dramatised. I loved the book, but it's so long since I read it I have forgotten some of the details.
The war scenes were brilliantly done, I thought. Personal and compelling and almost unbearably sad.
I like most of Sebastian Foulks's work, including Engleby, which, as someone said, is disturbing but very well written.
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