I cannot now bury my friends without bringing to mind the atrocities and the realities that they lived through. I cannot leave them in the ground without thinking of the joys they experienced, the pains they knew, and the questions that they never had answered.
This is the feeling that I was left with when I closed the last page of Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres. The book is set in the early 1900s in Southwestern Turkey. de Bernieres chose a really unique style of writing that mixes the reader into a small, tight community and instantly builds connections with the different families in the town. He then zooms out and looks at what is going on in the world at large and what is happening on the bigger scale. The story follows not only the small town of Eskibahçe, but also the life of Atatürk, the battles of World War 1 and the Turkish War for Independence. I won’t share too many details, because that is the beauty of the story. If you’ve read my review of Island of the World, I would say that this book falls into a similar category. The driving storyline is not so much towards a main action, but rather centers on people and life.
I have very mixed feelings on sharing this book. I absolutely loved it. I found it fascinating and enthralling, especially because I am living in this part of the world and I found it completely relevant and enlightening for my own personal life. The book is so beautifully written as well. de Bernieres has a profound vocabulary and a beautiful story-telling style that is very pleasing to a literary mind.
However, I must also offer up a disclaimer. This is not a family book. The book is candid and raw and honest. It shares realities of a time that people shouldn’t be proud of. As de Bernieres shares, there were very Holocaust-like atrocities that took place in this part of the world that no one talks about or knows about. de Bernieres doesn’t hold back on his descriptions of what happened, nor does he camouflage realities with gentle language. So, if you have any qualms about reading books with vulgar depictions and language, than I would advise that you not read this book. I will say that my intrigue was heightened by my living in Turkey and my understanding of the area and the cultures that were being referenced. If this is not a topic that you are interested in, then this is not a book that you should just pick up out of the blue. It is significantly long, and it will work its way into your heart and mind, so choose carefully. However, if this is an area of the world, or a time period that interests you, don’t hesitate to pick this book up, because it is a beautiful and honest depiction of life in this part of the world.
If you read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts below!!