Thursday, 30 January 2014

Bird - Crystal Chan

Book Review: Bird by Crystal Chan
Review by M

Bird by Crystal Chan
...Bird, with a feather bookmark
Bird is a lovely and gently heartbreaking novel. It’s a fairly quick and easy read with big themes and a surprisingly pageturning plot.
Twelve year old Jewel was born on the day her brother, Bird, died by jump-flying off a cliff. It was all Grandad’s fault and he has never spoken since. Jewel is a good girl but try as she might, she feels unloved and unwanted by her family. And then she meets someone and things go a little topsy-turvy, secrets are revealed, ‘guppies’ are everywhere and tempers flare.

Woven through this solid story about grief are parallel threads about race, identity and spirituality. Jewel is mixed race/ethnicity (Jamaican-Mexican) and lives in a small town in Iowa, USA (whose population is not very Jamaican-Mexican). Her family have different religious beliefs, among themselves and in contrast to the local community. The novel gently explores questions of identity and belonging in both the familial and community contexts.

For anyone who has even fleetingly felt a little bit lonely (or unloved), Bird will resonate. And if you have never felt like this, it may help you empathise with others. Most of the characters get things wrong. Bird may appeal to David Almond fans.

I found it hard to put down and stayed up until the early hours to finish it. Tissues recommended.

I know they're more expensive and can be awkward to hold, but here are a few words in favour of the UK hardback: It’s nice to look at and lovely to touch. The hard cover is soft to touch and nice to stroke. It’s the ‘short’ size hardback which makes it easy to hold, easy to shelve and makes it look thicker than it really is. To my eye, this is charming and it’d probably be a good one for those newly confident readers who want to tackle a BIG THICK book.

Publication details: 30 January 2013, Tamarind, London, hardback
This copy: review copy from the publisher

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