Saturday, October 04, 2008

Birds Without Wings

Louis de Bernieres is probably best known for his popular novel, Corelli's Mandolin, which I read and enjoyed several years ago. It was with this experience in mind that I anticipated reading this, his next novel, published in 2004. I was not disappointed. Birds Without Wings is more than a novel, it is several novels, a work of history and a biography of one of the leaders who remade the map of the twentieth century. It is this that makes it both an interesting book to read and a less successful book than it could have been. The stories are centered in a small village and resonate with today as lives are disrupted with displacement of both ethnic and religious groups as the society is forced into the future; our own present. I found the most dissatisfying aspect of Birds Without Wings was its massive size and the attempt of the author to do too much. The result is characters and events that are not always described with the depth necessary and deserving for the story. However, the book is excellent in its depiction of the time of the end of the Ottoman Empire, combining the beauty and nostalgia of the lives of people from small town Anatolia with the brutal sweep of the history of political movements and war encompassing the end of empire and the rise of Mustafa Kemal, subsequently known simply as Attaturk. The author tells each of these stories with a readable style that makes this book, while not without flaws, one that is easy to recommend.

Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres. Alfred Knopf, New York. 2004.

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