BookBrowse Reviews Pigeons by Andrew D. Blechman

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Pigeons

The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird

by Andrew D. Blechman

Pigeons by Andrew D. Blechman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Oct 2006, 256 pages
    Paperback:
    Oct 2007, 256 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


Readers will never look at their cities' pigeons the same way again.

Some consider pigeons to be no better than flying rats; others consider them to be man's best friend; most of us pay little attention to them, other than perhaps to cast an angry thought their way when something soft and smeary lands on our windscreen; but spend some time in the company of Andrew Blechman's Pigeons and you'll never look at the humble rock dove in the same light again. 

Starting on a high note, Blechman tells of pigeons through the ages, such as the pigeons behind the Reuters communication empire: A German man by the name of Israel Beer Josaphat realized that there was a gap in communications between Brussels and Germany because of a break in the still formative telegraph system.  A train took 8 hours to cross the gap but a pigeon carrying the news in tiny bags under its wings could fly it in two; once the news arrived it was retransmitted by telegraph, relaying important news and stockmarket prices 6 hours ahead of the regular channel. Josaphat later renamed himself Julius Reuters.

Blechman goes on to tell of the many pigeons who saved lives in war, such as Cher Ami (Dear Friend) who saved the US Army's 77th Division (later known as the "Lost Battalion") in WWI.  The 77th Division was trapped behind enemy lines with severely reduced numbers; but things got much worse when American troops unwittingly unleashed a massive artillery barrage on the remnants of the battalion.  A plea for help was sent with one bird but it was immediately shot down by the Germans; a second bird was sent and shot.  A third message was attached to the final pigeon, Cher Ami: "Our artillery is dropping a barrage on us.  For heaven's sake, stop it!" 

As Cher Ami flew away, he was hit by several bullets and plummeted towards the ground, but moments before crashing he managed to spread his wings and started climbing higher and higher out of range.  Twenty minutes later he landed at headquarters.  Part of his head including one eye had been blown away, his breast was ripped open, but the canister was still hanging from the few tendons remaining of his severed leg - and the barrage stopped.  For his courageous persistence, he was awarded the French Croix de Guerre, and was shipped back to the USA in style, where he died from his injuries a year later.

Sadly, Blechman's stories of pigeons through the ages are the high point of his book.  Once he enters the present day his narrative gets bogged down by too much first person reporting. Many of the people he introduces us to are fascinating examples of humanity; but he spends too much time on the logistics of how he manages to track down these often illusive characters - up to a point this illustrates the eccentricity of many at the heart of the world of pigeon fancying and racing are, but the sheer level of detail is wearisome after a time. 

"The pigeons are the day cleaning crew, and the rats are the night cleaning crew. Without them, we'd die in our own filth." - Bob, a lifelong pigeon fan.

This review was originally published in December 2006, and has been updated for the October 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
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 books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Rebellion
    Rebellion
    by Molly Patterson
    Rebellion overlays the stories of four women, spanning a century and the globe in their wide ...
  • Book Jacket: Genuine Fraud
    Genuine Fraud
    by E Lockhart
    Do we ever really know who our friends are? Or what the truth is? After all, truth, like beauty is ...
  • Book Jacket: Jumping at Shadows
    Jumping at Shadows
    by Sasha Abramsky
    In September 2015, fourteen-year old Ahmed Mohamed was thrust into the national spotlight when the ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

An eye-opening and riveting look at how how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Twelve-Mile Straight
    by Eleanor Henderson

    An audacious epic set in rural Georgia during the years of the Depression and Prohibition.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Love and Other Consolation Prizes
    by Jamie Ford

    Inspired by a true story, about a boy whose life is transformed at Seattle's epic 1909 World's Fair.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win If the Creek Don't Rise

If the Creek Don't Rise

A debut novel bursting with heart, honesty, and homegrown grit.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

Y Can't M A S P O O A S E

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & 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.