(Review) Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War by Sebastian Faulks

Birdsong
Publisher and Publication Date: Vintage. Published March 21st 2012. First published September 27, 1993.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 496.
Source: Library ebook copy.
Audience: Romance readers who can also digest a war story, or readers of military stories who can digest a love story.  Historical fiction readers of World War I.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link for the book

Birdsong is book two in the French Trilogy by Sebastian Faulks. The first book is The Girl at the Lion d’Or. The third book is Charlotte Gray. I’ve read Charlotte Gray. This last book I rated good or 3 stars. From what I remember, Charlotte Gray was a bland character.

Summary:
The year is 1910. Stephen Wraysford is a young Englishman who stays with the Azaire family in France. He is observing and learning about Mr. Azaire’s factory business. Mrs. Isabelle Azaire is the second wife and step-mother to the two children. She is a proper, respected, and lovely woman. The constraints of her economic class and the era in which she lives creates an insecurity about being perfect. However, perfect is a façade, an illusion. From the first moment, there is an instant attraction between Stephen and Isabelle. There are several scenes of lingering eye contact and touching, which builds to the moment they seek a safe place to act on their attraction. Their relationship is powerful and they are swept up in the energy it brings. It peaks when reality sets. The story then shifts to the early years of World War I. Stephen is in the British army. He is an officer in command of other soldiers. A secondary story is the late 1970s, England. A middle age woman is in search of information about her grandfather. The book is primarily about Stephen Wraysford. The lens is on him.

My Thoughts:
I have so many thoughts about this story.
•I’d heard about this book years ago when the movie was on PBS. I watched pieces of this movie at that time. I’m hoping to watch it in full.
•Recently, I read an account (from someone else) this book gave a solid look at World War I. I agree. It is descriptive about so many aspects of the war I’d not considered. For example, the lice and flea problem. Lice and fleas permeated the soldier during World War I. Even when they were on leave and cleaned up, the eggs were in the clothing. They’d hatch eventually and the soldier began itching. The itching was done without realizing, because they’d become accustomed to the problem. Another aspect is the shaking or tremor in the hands of soldiers. Their hands shook because of PTSD. Other aspects of the war in this book: the sound that a shell makes before it hits the target; what happened to a human body depending on where the shell hit; the miners who tunneled; an explanation of what gangrene does to a human body; what a poisonous gas attack does to a human body; medical treatments from doctors and nurses; the feeling of detachment for a soldier; retrieving dead bodies for burial; and the infestation of rats.
Birdsong is a book about relationships. Relationships between husbands and wives, parent and children, lovers, friends, and soldiers who are in war. As I’ve become older, I have learned there are different types of love and different levels of love. And, people who romantically love one another, and it is a deep love, don’t always end up in a permanent relationship. Sometimes things don’t work out for people who love one another. This book explores a lingering love. A love that doesn’t go away, but only finds a safe place to settle in a person’s heart.
•Faulks is a descriptive writer. I found myself lingering and rereading certain parts, especially with people. I felt that if I reread those portions about the person I might understand them better. I might see them in my mind clearer.
•The themes in the story pull at the heart. For example, war and the impact it makes on generations.
Birdsong is a haunting story. It’s a memorable story.
Birdsong is a mature story. I’m not saying that if you are 18 you are not old enough to read the story. Birdsong requires a maturity about life that is made profound by older eyes.
•I understand the reason for including the modern story. However, I didn’t care for it. It felt pasted. It felt insignificant in comparison to Stephen’s story.

 

(Review) Beyond The Moon by Catherine Taylor

Beyond the Moon_Blog Tour PosterBeyond the Moon_web

 

Publisher and Publication Date:
The Cameo Press Ltd. June 25, 2019.
Genre: Historical fiction. Fantasy fiction. Romance. World War I.
Pages: 496.
Source: I received a complimentary paperback copy, but I was not required to leave a positive review.
Audience: Readers of World War I. Romance. Dual time periods.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link
The kindle copy is free in Kindle Unlimited.

Book tour landing page: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

About the author:
Catherine Taylor was born and grew up on the island of Guernsey in the British Channel Islands. She is a former journalist, most recently for Dow Jones News and The Wall Street Journal in London. Beyond The Moon is her first novel. She lives in Ealing, London with her husband and two children.
Catherine Taylor website
Catherine Taylor

Summary:
Outlander meets Birdsong is this haunting debut timeslip novel, where a strange twist of fate connects a British soldier fighting in the First World War and a young woman living in modern-day England a century later.
*Shortlisted for the Eharmony/Orion Write Your Own Love Story Prize 2018/19
In 1916 1st Lieutenant Robert Lovett is a patient at Coldbrook Hall military hospital in Sussex, England. A gifted artist, he’s been wounded fighting in the Great War. Shell shocked and suffering from hysterical blindness he can no longer see his own face, let alone paint, and life seems increasingly hopeless.
A century later in 2017, medical student Louisa Casson has just lost her beloved grandmother – her only family. Heartbroken, she drowns her sorrows in alcohol on the South Downs cliffs – only to fall accidentally part-way down. Doctors fear she may have attempted suicide, and Louisa finds herself involuntarily admitted to Coldbrook Hall – now a psychiatric hospital, an unfriendly and chaotic place.
Then one day, while secretly exploring the old Victorian hospital’s ruined, abandoned wing, Louisa hears a voice calling for help, and stumbles across a dark, old-fashioned hospital room. Inside, lying on the floor, is a mysterious, sightless young man, who tells her he was hurt at the Battle of the Somme, a WW1 battle a century ago. And that his name is Lieutenant Robert Lovett…
Two people, two battles: one against the invading Germans on the battlefields of 1916 France, the other against a substandard, uncaring mental health facility in modern-day England. Two journeys begun a century apart, but somehow destined to coincide – and become one desperate struggle to be together.
Part WW1 historical fiction, part timeslip love story – and at the same time a meditation on the themes of war, mental illness, identity and art – Beyond The Moon sweeps the reader on an unforgettable journey through time. An intelligent read, perfect for book clubs.

For fans of Diana Gabaldon, Amy Harmon, Beatriz Williams, Kate Quinn, Kristin Hannah, Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley and Paullina Simons.

“A poignant and stirring love story… Taylor’s accomplished, genre-bending book succeeds as a WW1 historical novel and a beguiling, time travel romance… The sharply written narrative deftly moves back and forth between the past and present.” — Kirkus Reviews
“A time travel romance, yet so much more than that. It is also an unflinching portrait of the horrors of war, and a look at the torturous extremes a human soul can endure. It is a sonnet to the transformative power of love, even as it is also a criticism of the futility and pointless destructiveness of war.” — Shaylin Gandhi, author of By The Light of Embers

My Thoughts:
This is a first novel for Catherine Taylor!
Beyond The Moon is a busy story. It’s busy because several themes are running through it. Examples of themes: PTSD, war, depression, survival, love, death, prison, art, medical practices, family, friendship, private hospitalization/treatment center practices, pacifist, and addictions. The lengthy list of themes, and the categories the book fits, had to have been a very big challenge for Taylor. I believe she pulled it all together for a great story. I read the book in two days! The story held my attention until the end, because I had to know how the story would wrap up with the two main characters.
Dual time periods has become common in historical fiction books. In other books, the dual time periods go back and forth with the change of each chapter. Beyond The Moon allowed one time period to stay through repeated chapters at times. This gave me a chance to relax.
Solid description writing of the scenery that helped me become apart of the story.
Taylor is wonderful at painting the scenes.
Great dialogue. In one scene, people are having a conversation about the war (World War I.) This conversation gave me an idea of how people on both sides felt about the war.
Fantastic reading about medical practices used during World War I. Some of the practices are primitive, yet they are on the edge of transformation in learning new things.
The ending is not believable, but I consider this story to be fantasy.
A wonderful first novel! Bravo.

Giveaway: (Impressions In Ink is only posting the material for the giveaway.)
During the Blog Tour, we are giving away two paperback copies of Beyond the Moon by Catherine Taylor! To enter, please use the Gleam form below.
Giveaway Rules!
– Giveaway ends at 11:59 pm EST on December 20th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Paperback giveaway is open to the US only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspicion of fraud will be decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– The winner has 48 hours to claim prize or a new winner is chosen.

Link for the giveaway: https://gleam.io/lAcVI/beyond-the-moon

(Review) The Masterpiece by Francine Rivers

It has been several years since I’ve read a book by Francine Rivers. I am not a big reader of Christian fiction. Every once in a while a title or book cover will entice me. I’ve read a few reviews on The Masterpiece, and placed the book on my to be read list. I have mixed feelings about the book. On one hand it has an interesting synopsis. On the other hand it did not capture me as I’d wanted.

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Publisher and Publication Date: Large print edition published by Thorndike Press, a part of Gale, a Cengage Company. Tyndale House Publishers holds the publishing rights. February 6, 2018.
Genre: Christian Fiction.
Pages: 512.
Source: Library.
Rating: Good.

Amazon

This is the first large print edition I’ve read. It is hardcover. It is 16 point. The type-font style is plantin. It is unabridged. It is a just the “story” kind of book. No extra fluff.

Summary:
Grace Moore is a single mom living in Burbank, California. She and her baby son live with Selah and Ruben and their children. At one time, Grace had considered letting them adopt her baby. Grace has not signed the adoption papers, but continues to live with them. They have been supportive of her and have provided a place to live until she can become independent. Grace begins working for an artist as his personal assistant. The job is at his large home in Topanga Canyon, California.
Roman Velasco is an artist. He hires Grace, because she is detail oriented and honest. He has no interest in the domestic side of life.
Both Grace and Roman are hiding painful pasts. Their stories are shared going back and forth in time.

My Thoughts:

What I liked:
1. A main theme in the book is two people who have painful pasts. One character who has become a Christian and is trying to live a new life in Christ Jesus. The other character has no interest or at least no idea what this “new life” in Christ is all about nor do they care. The two people are attracted and intrigued by the other. Both have walls they’ve put up but for different reasons. For a Christian fiction book this is a standard type plot. One character is a Christian and the other is not. How do they work this huge problem out? Is it possible to love and have a permanent relationship with someone who does not believe and worship the same? These questions are what real people have to work out in life.
2. Roman is a handsome man, he’s virile. I loved it that he is biracial. I have not read another Christian fiction book where this is the characterization of a person. Bravo. Also, to bring a sensuality into the story is wonderful. Christian fiction stays too sterile, and this is not real life. People are drawn to each other physically.
3. Grace is wrestling with doing the right thing with her baby son. The woman who has been helping her is helping too much. This woman is emotionally attached. Through the book, I was anxious to find out what was going to happen in this situation.

What I did not like about the book:
1. The book is lengthy at 512 pages. Let me clarify. I love long stories. I’ve read several Charles Dickens books. I’ve read Les Misérables. I’ve read War and Peace. I’ve read the Bible several times. If I feel a story can be told in less pages, then it should be less pages. This is a story that could have been less pages. However, the book has sold well so obviously this is not a negative point for the buyers of the book.
2. Grace got on my last nerve at times. In some ways she is strong and direct. However, she is loyal to a fault. She has a high tolerance for bad behavior. I understand these are traits of a person who has been abused. I wondered, what if there was a reverse of these traits in the book? What if Grace was the type of character who Roman is and Roman was the type of character Grace was? Another words they swapped. Is it possible the readership or publisher would approve of such a thing? In culture, we want the men to be aggressive and strong, and women are to be weaker (ouch.)

Overall the book is a good and solid story. It is just not an excellent rating for me.