From Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks
Jack Firebrace. An honest Tommy.
The Novel Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks is a story of various parts of one mans life, Stephen Wraysford. The first par of the book is a love story, when Stephen Wraysford is living and working in Northern France. The main text of the book is when Stephen Wraysford returns to Northern France again, this time as an officer in the British Army, during the First World War. This is the section in which Jack Firebrace features. The final part of the book is a recurring sub plot set in the seventies. We initially meet Jack Firebrace in the most horrific circumstances possible. Jack is a miner, tunnelling under enemy positions placing mines in the hope of halting enemy advances. Bizarrely Jack's life is threatened by both sides. He faces either being blown to pieces by enemy mines or being picked off by sniper fire on his all too infrequent breaks on the surface. Should the enemy fail to get him his own side will. Turning on him when he is overcome by exhaustion. On one occasion he is listening for the enemy tunnelling close to his position, he hears nothing and assures his co-miners that it is safe to continue. He sees some of his colleagues literally blown to pieces, had he heard better, they may still be alive. With little sleep, Jack is put on to sentry duty, tiredness gives way to exhaustion. Jack briefly falls asleep. Only to be woken by his commanding officer. The officer's arrogance and insensitivity to the horrors that preceded this are graphically portrayed to us when Jack is ordered to appear in front of another commanding officer in the morning. We are told "it's a court martial offence
you know the punishment". The following day the "seriousness" of the offence is forgotten as Jack turns up potentially to meet his death to find his superiors have turned to alcohol to anaesthetise themselves to their own horrors. Keen to talk about anything except the reason Jack is there, the...
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