Birds Without Wings  

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The signature of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the fo...Image via Wikipedia

Birds Without Wings

By Louis de Bernieres, 2004, from the library.

You should know

This book was assigned for book club. I asked for less depressing fare than we'd been reading, but this is what came up.


Well, it's not entirely depressing. The plot centers around the people of a small village in the pre-World War I Ottoman Empire. The population of the town is made up of a mix of Christians and Muslims, and while officially there's some animosity between the two groups, on a practical level friendships, and even marriages, cross the religious lines all the time.

When the war starts, the Muslim men are rounded up to fight. One boy, Karatavuk, lies about his age to that he can enlist in his father's place; his best friend, Mehmetcik, a Christian, tries to enlist as well but is turned away, only to end up as a laborer.

Another Muslim boy is deeply affected by his military service, and it has tragic consequences on his engagement to a beautiful Christian girl.

Stories of the town and the war are interspersed with historical tellings of the life of Mustafa Kemal, the man who would eventually be known as Attaturk.

I definitely liked some chapters more than others. I don't mind first-person storytelling at all (the book jumps between first and third person), but when the narrator is a small child and the storytelling, as a result, is ungrammatical and unpunctuated, it gets old fastt.

Overall, it's not a bad book; it's even compelling at times. It's not light and happy, though, so it'll probably appeal more if you're either itnerested in the subject, or would like to learn more about it.


Skip it unless...
...You're up for something heavy, you really like mixed narration, or you're particulalry interested in World War I or Greek/Turkish history.

The rest of the Internet

Beware of spoilers...
The Wikipedia page.
Robert Birnbaum at The Morning News interviews the author.
An enthusiastic review from Trashotron.
Imad Moustapha at Weblog of a Syrian Diplomat in America considers the book a masterpiece.
Caribousmom recommends this book, and provides some quotes so that you can get a sense of the writing.

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