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Birds Without Wings by [De Bernieres, Louis]
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Birds Without Wings Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 303 customer reviews

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Length: 578 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
Page Flip: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It's been nearly a decade since Captain Corelli's Mandolin became a word-of-mouth bestseller (and then a major feature film), and devotees will eagerly dig into de Bernières' sweeping historical follow-up. This time the setting is the small Anatolian town of Eskibahçe, in the waning days of the Ottoman Empire. The large cast of characters of intermixed Turkish, Greek and Armenian descent includes breathtakingly lovely Philothei, a Christian girl, and her beloved Ibrahim, the childhood friend and Muslim to whom she is betrothed. The narrative immediately sets up Philothei's death and Ibrahim's madness as the focal tragedy caused by the sweep of history—but this is a bit of a red herring. Various first-person voices alternate in brief chapters with an authorial perspective that details the interactions of the town's residents as the region is torn apart by war; a parallel set of chapters follows the life of Kemal Atatürk, who established Turkey as a modern, secular country. The necessary historical information can be tedious, and stilted prose renders some key characters (like Philothei) one-dimensional. But when de Bernières relaxes his grip on the grand sweep of history—as he does with the lively and affecting anecdotes involving the Muslim landlord Rustem Bey and his wife and mistress—the results resonate with the very personal consequences that large-scale change can effect. Though some readers may balk at the novel's sheer heft, the reward is an effective and moving portrayal of a way of life—and lives—that might, if not for Bernières's careful exposition and imagination, be lost to memory forever.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

"Destiny caresses the few, but molests the many," a proverb-prone narrator reflects as he begins the story of Eskibahçe, a small town in Anatolia, and of its inhabitants' fate in the turmoil of the early twentieth century. After generations of cheerful intermingling, the town's Muslim Turks, Christian Greeks, and Armenians are divided by the First World War and then by the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. De Bernières gamely tries to illustrate the human cost—a complex series of migrations and persecutions—through a cast of endearing, folksy characters. He interleaves the narratives with the biography of Kemal Atatürk. But history, in this case, may be too vast for his approach; despite many affecting moments, both the big picture and the small stories are lost in an overwhelming sprawl.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

Product Details

  • File Size: 2002 KB
  • Print Length: 578 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (December 18, 2007)
  • Publication Date: December 18, 2007
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0012SMGLK
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,521 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
BIRDS WITHOUT WINGS is a rare specimen in the genre of historical novels: a success. It is a compelling, readable, and historically credible tale of love and tragedy at the time of the Ottoman collapse in Turkey. Told from multiple points of view, with chapters narrated by the diverse cast of characters themselves and biographical segments on the career of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, this novel tells the story of how modern secular Turkey was forged out of the crucible of the Balkan Wars, World War I and the Greek War of Independence. The narrators are the ordinary men and women -- Christian and Muslim, Greek and Turk -- of a small village near Telmessos (now Fethiye) in southwestern Turkey. The stories they tell of war, loss and survival are fully human and utterly heartrending. I will not soon forget de Bernieres' sorrowful depiction of the cross-deportations of Greeks and Turks from lands they had inhabited for centuries. Neither will I forget the dignity and romance of characters like the aga Rustem Bey, his mistress Leyla Hanim and the village imam Abdulhamid Hodja.

If you're looking for old-fashioned storytelling with vibrant, lifelike characters who inhabit an artfully recreated historical world, I highly recommend Louis de Bernieres' BIRDS WITHOUT WINGS.
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Format: Hardcover
"Birds Without Wings" is an exceptionally beautiful novel that takes place during the waning period of the Ottoman Empire, in the small Anatolian town of Eskibahce. As the story opens, an ethnic mix of Turks, Armenians, and Greeks, both Muslims and Christians, are living side-by-side in a comfortable and relatively peaceful existence. But first the Franks, as the Ottomans call the Western Europeans, and then the Greeks invade their homeland. These events set off a cataclysmic chain of events that tear apart the lives of the residents of Eskibahce. The Sultan declares a holy war against the invaders. The Muslims are conscripted as soldiers and the Christians are sent into labor battalions. The Armenians are evacuated from the region in a death march. The Italians occupy Eskibahce. The Christians are forced to relocate to Greece. Throughout it all, the residents struggle to survive amidst the turmoil.

Although this novel does an exemplary job of bringing alive the history of Turkey, there is far more here than a recounting of historic events. Told in alternating voices, viewpoints, and time periods, this story is panoramic in scope as it follows more than a dozen principal characters and a large cast of secondary ones through a series of interrelated story lines.

There are the childhood friends Karatavuk and Mehmetcik, who are inseparable until war breaks out. At that point, Karatavuk becomes a soldier who participates in the hellish battle of Gallipoli, and Mehmetcik, who is forced into a labor battalion, later defects and becomes a brigand. There is the beautiful Christian girl Philothei, who is betrothed to Ibrahim the goatherd and whose death is foreshadowed at the start of the story.
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Format: Hardcover
This is de Berniere's first new novel after the enormously successful `Captain Corelli's Mandolin'. Like Corelli, it's a long-ish historical novel set in the eastern Mediterreanean. Here we are taken from the 1890s to the 1920s in a small town on the coast of Anatolia on what, when the novel begins, is part of the Ottoman Empire but, by its close, has become Turkey.

It is, in many ways a less focused novel than Corelli where the narrative, though involving many characters, had a clear centre in Pelagia, her father and her two lovers. (The first of these lovers links the two novels as his mother Drosoula is a character in both.) This too has many characters, some of whom, the local aga Rustem Bey and his vivacious mistress Leyla Hanim, the young man Karatavuk who goes off to fight at Gallipoli and his Christian friend Mehmetcik, the local beauty Philothei and her lover Ibrahim, the imam Abdullamid Hodja and his wife Ayse; but there is much less in the way of a central connection. The result is sometimes more like a series of interwoven short stories than a novel but remains a very readable, often very beautiful and powerful narrative.

Much as in Corelli again, we begin with a picture of a community that is broadly speaking happy and harmonious - though not without its ugly side, as a horrible early episode involving Rustem Bey's adulterous wife along with a somewhat later manifestation of `the tyranny of honour' both manifest. In spite of these occasional horrors, the picture painted by the early chapters is one, striking and extremely salutary to our own nervous and distrustful times, of Muslims and Christians living side by side and getting along just splendidly.
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Format: Hardcover
This quote from Birds Without Wings sets the book's tone. "All men are brothers" is a theme weary from overuse. Yet de Bernieres manages to portray it in a novel fashion within an unexpected environment. In school most of us learned of "the Sick Man of Europe" - the Ottoman Empire that once wrapped the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. "Corrupt" was the word usually applied. Throughout the 19th Century the Empire was chipped away by rising nationalist forces. Within the Empire's core, however, de Bernieres portrays a land of ethnic mix, kept stable by a tolerance for neighbours. The dominant Muslims appeal to the Orthodox Christians' Mary for aid. The Christians, in turn, recite prayers while prostrating in the Muslim fashion. A Greek teacher writes letters - in Turkish, but written in Greek script. All these elements are skillfully woven in this masterpiece of fictional history.

Yet, as de Bernieres chronicles, this tightly integrated society, typified by a village on Turkey's southwest coast - Eskibahce, was shattered. Riven by hostilities, broken up and rendered a pitiful remnant - why did this idyllic situation fail? Not Ottoman "corruption" but the forces of "European Civilization" intruded on these people's lives in devastating ways. To the people of Eskibahce, all Europeans are the mysterious "Franks". There are German Franks, French Franks, British Franks, even Australian Franks - all Christian, but as Eskibahce will learn, not the Christians they are familiar with. Whatever else these Franks are, they intrude on the Ottoman society and politics. The Empires built in Europe during the 19th Century, chipping at the Ottoman hegemony have now erupted into a Great War. Eskibahce's sons go off to fight, but the demands of war prove greater than simply acquiring cannon fodder.
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