Excerpt from Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio


by Sebastian Faulks

  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Feb 1996, 402 pages
    Apr 1997, 483 pages

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Madame Azaire had not fully engaged Stephen's eye. In return he avoided hers, as though waiting to be addressed, but within his peripheral view fell the sweep of her strawberry-chestnut hair, caught and held up off her face. She wore a white lace blouse with a dark red stone at the throat.

As they finished dinner there was a ring at the front door and they heard a hearty male voice in the hall.

Azaire smiled for the first time. "Good old Bérard. On the dot as usual!"

"Monsieur and Madame Bérard," said the maid as she opened the door.

"Good evening to you, Azaire. Madame, delighted." Bérard, a heavyset grey-haired man in his fifties, lowered his lips to Madame Azaire's hand. His wife, almost equally well built, though with thick hair wound up on top of her head, shook hands and kissed the children on the cheek.

"I am sorry, I didn't hear your name when René introduced us," said Bérard to Stephen.

While Stephen repeated it and spelled it out for him, the children were dismissed and the Bérards installed in their place.

Azaire seemed rejuvenated by their arrival. "Brandy for you, Bérard? And for you, Madame, a little tisane, I think? Isabelle, ring for coffee also, please. Now then-"

"Before you go any further," said Bérard, holding up his fleshy hand, "I have some bad news. The dyers have called for a strike to begin tomorrow. The syndicate chiefs met the employers' representatives at five this evening and that is their decision."

Azaire snorted. "I thought the meeting was tomorrow."

"It was brought forward to today. I don't like to bring you bad tidings, my dear René, but you would not have thanked me if you had learned it from your foreman tomorrow. At least I suppose it won't affect your factory immediately."

Bérard in fact appeared to have enjoyed delivering the news. His face expressed a quiet satisfaction at the importance it had conferred on him. Madame Bérard looked admiringly at her husband.

Azaire continued to curse the work force and to ask how they expected him to keep his factories going. Stephen and the women were reluctant to give an opinion and Bérard, having delivered the news, seemed to have no further contribution to make on the subject.

"So," he said, when Azaire had run on long enough, "a strike of dyers. There it is, there it is."

This conclusion was taken by all, including Azaire, as the termination of the subject.

"How did you travel?" said Bérard.

"By train," said Stephen, assuming he was being addressed. "It was a long journey."

"Aah, the trains," said Bérard. "What a system! We are a great junction here. Trains to Paris, to Lille, to Boulogne... Tell me, do you have trains in England?"


"Since when?"

"Let me see... For about seventy years."

"But you have problems in England, I think."

"I'm not sure. I wasn't aware of any."

Bérard smiled happily as he drank his brandy. "So there it is. They have trains now in England."

The course of the conversation depended on Bérard; he took it as his burden to act as a conductor, to bring in the different voices, and then summarize what they had contributed.

"And in England you eat meat for breakfast every day," he said.

"I think most people do," said Stephen.

"Imagine, dear Madame Azaire, roast meat for breakfast every day!" Bérard invited his hostess to speak.

She declined, but murmured something about the need to open a window.

"Perhaps one day we shall do the same, eh René?"

"Oh, I doubt it, I doubt it," said Azaire. "Unless one day we have the London fog as well."

"Oh, and the rain." Bérard laughed. "It rains five days out of six in London, I believe." He looked toward Stephen again.

Excerpted from Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks Copyright © 1997 by Sebastian Faulks. Excerpted by permission of Vintage, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: So Say the Fallen
    So Say the Fallen
    by Stuart Neville
    Noir crime fiction – Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett anyone? – is an American invention...
  • Book Jacket: The Mothers
    The Mothers
    by Brit Bennett
    Every now and then the publishing industry gushes about a young author destined to become the next ...
  • Book Jacket
    by Tom Jackson
    Growing up in Mumbai in the '70s, I still remember herbs kept fresh in small glasses of water, ...
Book Discussions
Book Jacket
The Bone Tree
by Greg Iles

An epic trilogy of blood and race, family and justice.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    North of Crazy
    by Neltje

    The remarkable life of a woman who carves her own singular path.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Next
    by Stephanie Gangi

    Fast-paced, wickedly observant, and haunting in the best sense of the word.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    News of the World
    by Paulette Jiles

    Exquisitely rendered and morally complex--a brilliant work of historical fiction.

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win The World of Poldark

Win the book & DVD

Enter to win The World of Poldark and the full first series on DVD.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

One S D N M A S

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.


Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!

Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.