My first book review! I picked this book up from a shelf at my local library full of books which are “recommended reads” for the Commonwealth games. All of the books featured are from Commonwealth authors or feature countries of the Commonwealth.
“Mateship with Birds” by Carrie Tiffany is a short novel dealing with the themes of family life, adolescence and sex in 1950’s rural Australia. There is no romance or love scenes in this novel; the sexual content is explicit and highly descriptive. Harry, a farmer who lives alone and keeps a journal describing the comings and goings of a family of birds he observes, is a neighbour to Betty and somewhat of a father figure to her two children, Michael and Little Hazel. The author describes the parallels between the courtship rituals of birds and that of people – Betty and Harry observe each other from afar for a long period of time without anything happening. Harry takes it upon himself to educate Michael about sex and the female body and does so through a series of letters. The story is broken up by bird observations and nature journal entries, which I find detracts from the main story. The authors’ writing style is flowing and descriptive – there are some beautiful passages describing various farm animals where you really can imagine what they looked, smelt and felt like. The author is obviously exploring the theme of sexual awakening, not only between males and females but she touches on child abuse and bestiality. I felt that these scenes were unecessary and again detracted from the main story; they were also quite difficult to read due to the imagery and word choice the author employs. I am glad I read this book – it was an interesting subject matter which I don’t think was fully developed. I didn’t feel a particular connection to any of the characters and I think that this is necessary for me to fully enjoy a novel. I would only recommend this book to people who have an interest in the subject matter or to those who enjoy particulary descriptive passages. I don’t think I would read any more of the authors work as I did not enjoy her writing style.