Well, no one warned me quite how affecting Birdsong is. I couldn't put it down, but half the time couldn't read the words for welling up. I don't think I've ever read anything, or seen a film that gives you quite such a personal account of life in the trenches. Reading about the war usually allows you some distance, but this book makes it so personal that you get completely sucked in. It's so clever in the use of context. Characters that I could easily dislike in another novel became the ones I was most fond of, and most precious about if it's possible to feel protective of a fictional figure. The events they go through in the book and as a result the perspective of life they have are so well described that you shift your own boundaries of what is 'likable' in a person. It's a very humbling read.
I've travelled a lot. I read a lot. I studied anthropology and I try to always open my mind to learning about the world from every source available. But reading Birdsong just reminded me of how sheltered our lives are. How different things are now and how privaledged we are to live in a world which was created for us by generations before us who gave up their lives so we could have the protected, safe environment we do now. And that there are still people who dedicate their lives to ensuring it stays that way. I always find it hard to read or see things that relate to war. I find it very upsetting to think about the horrors that people have faced (and are facing) in fighting for whatever cause is on the table at the time. But I loved this book. Every page of it.