I've had varied success with Rebecca West, I loved The return of the soldier, didn't get on with either Harriet Hume or The thinking reed, and wasn't hugely fussed, but found ok, her Cousin Rosamund trilogy. I was intrigued by what I read about The birds fall down and was hugely pleased to discover that I quite enjoyed reading this mix of political thriller and family story, and didn't even mind the philosophical elements (which were what I struggled with in Harriet Hume and The thinking reed) although it was very long winded and is really quite difficult to write about.
The book is based around the character of eighteen-year-old Laura. Her father is a British MP, her mother, Tania, is the daughter of an exiled Russian royalist. Laura and Tania set out for France to stay with Tania's parents. Tania's mother is ill, and so Laura is then dispatched with her grandfather to stay on the coast. Whilst they make the journey by train, their carriage is invaded by a Russian who subjects the pair to a long diatribe about Russia and suggests that the Tsar is making schemes to protect himself, getting rid of others in the process. Essentially, this is all somewhat of a precursor to the Russian revolution.
The best things about the book for me was reading about Laura; the worst things were the long bits of dialogue dealing with politics - there is a scene set on the train (which West claims was a depiction of real events) which goes on for over 100 pages!
It's been published three times by Virago, and I had the second, italic green edition, from the library. Apparently the BBC also made it into a TV serial.