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Book Title: The Birds Fall Down|
The author of the book: Rebecca West
ISBN 13: 9780670167920
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 875 KB
Edition: Viking Adult
Date of issue: September 30th 1966
Read full description of the books The Birds Fall Down:Approaches to writing fiction vary as much as tastes in reading it: that's a way of recognizing that The Birds Fall Down disagrees with some readers, in large ways or small. One reason I admired it, when I read it in the mid-90s, was precisely its unusual features. Broadly speaking, it concerns the upheavals in Russia that led to the end of the tsar's court and the triumph of the Communists, but it doesn't take place in Russia. Roughly a quarter of its length is devoted to a long talk on a French train--what the New York Times reviewer in 1966 called a "monstrous conversation"--between an exiled aristocrat and a terrorist, but their talk isn't the kind you or I might have. It presents instead, like some of the speeches in the movie Network, a heightened reality akin to operatic arias, to use a term that's been applied both to this discussion and to those excursions in Network. And despite its discursive qualities, the novel shares something with mysteries and spy thrillers; it's genuinely gripping, featuring clues one might at first have missed and secrets one begins to suspect, finally involving life-or-death stakes.
I could even say (though I might be overreaching a bit) that this novel of clashing ideas and ideals is also about the life and death of worlds, not in the science-fiction way but in the sense of entire cultures. Those cultures, as well as the novel's style, are increasingly remote now to most of us in America, so The Birds Fall Down seems to some readers alien rather than comfortable, though for me this is a virtue--it has the appeal of the exotic. That may sound merely aesthetic, so I should add that the foreign realm into which the book transports the reader was entirely real and that what happened there was deeply consequential for the entire 20th century.
Anyone wanting more detail can easily consult that Times review I mentioned, but be forewarned: it offers criticism rather than ordinary reviewing, in the sense of assessing virtually the entire story. Spoilers, in other words.
A personal note: My recollection is that I discovered this novel during one of many trips with my mother to Half Price Books, a used bookstore, in Dallas, Texas, and that she suggested either this work in particular or at least Dame Rebecca West's writing in general. It was one of many recommendations she made and books she gave me. How she came by her broad knowledge of literature (as it still seems to me) is something I never found time to ask her about, and that part of her past is now beyond retrieving, unlike the history restored by Dame Rebecca in this book. Though my mother had been born into a family much inclined to reading--one of her older relations had founded an important part of the University of Texas library system, if I remember right--she must have been preoccupied from the mid-50s with raising a family and from the mid-60s had been a single parent with a full-time job who nonetheless managed to earn a graduate degree (in library science, not surprisingly). When did she discover all those authors to whom she introduced me? Willie Morris, Ray Bradbury, P. D. James, Barbara Pym, Rebecca West, Thomas Merton… the list is long and wide-ranging. I can say only that I'm glad for it.
Read information about the authorCicely Isabel Fairfield, known by her pen name Rebecca West, or Dame Rebecca West, DBE was an English author, journalist, literary critic and travel writer. A prolific, protean author who wrote in many genres, West was committed to feminist and liberal principles and was one of the foremost public intellectuals of the twentieth century. She reviewed books for The Times, the New York Herald Tribune, the Sunday Telegraph, and the New Republic, and she was a correspondent for The Bookman. Her major works include Black Lamb and Grey Falcon (1941), on the history and culture of Yugoslavia; A Train of Powder (1955), her coverage of the Nuremberg trials, published originally in The New Yorker; The Meaning of Treason, later The New Meaning of Treason, a study of World War II and Communist traitors; The Return of the Soldier, a modernist World War I novel; and the "Aubrey trilogy" of autobiographical novels, The Fountain Overflows, This Real Night, and Cousin Rosamund. Time called her "indisputably the world's number one woman writer" in 1947. She was made CBE in 1949, and DBE in 1959, in recognition of her outstanding contributions to British letters.
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