Monday 8 July 2013

Book review : Mateship With Birds - Carrie Tiffany

I've just turned the final page of Mateship With Birds and still haven't quite decided what I thought of it ! It's one of those books that makes you reflect on a lot of things but you're never really sure if you've understood it properly or are reading too much (or too little) into it.

 The book is set in rural Australia, where the men are rugged farmers who spend more time seeing to their animals than learning to deal with the fairer sex. There's a lot of sexual references in the book but it's more agricultural than erotic. Think Fifty Shades of Hay and I love ewe which isn't a typo ! A lot of people refer to all things sexual as the birds and the bees but this constant juxtaposition of vaguely erotic stirrings and the world of nature - not just the birds of the title but also the surrounding farm animals -left me feeling slightly weird !

The book follows lonesome farmer Harry, who seems like a genuinely nice guy, and his love from afar with his neighbour, single mum Betty. The two gravitate around each other without actually coming together romantically and the will-they-won't-they tension is maintained throughout the whole book. Harry's hidden depths really come to the fore through the written word - he makes a rather clumsy effort to educate Betty's teenage son in the ways of the world through some frank letters and records a tender, almost poetic log of the comings and goings of the birds in the garden in the unused margin of his dairy ledger.

And that just about sums up the book. It's a slightly discordant mix of poetry and crudity, romance and lust, complex human emotions and the simplicity of animal mateship. It's an interesting read but one that didn't leave me feeling wholly satisfied, rather as if I'd read a short story that kept the characters at arms' length where I couldn't quite get into their mindspace. Although maybe that's a good thing !

star rating : 3.5/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (6 Jun 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330544462
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330544467

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Book review : Ancient Light - John Banville

Book review : Autobiography of Us - Aria Beth Sloss

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