I don’t know how it happened but this winter I accumulated so many books you’d swear I was trying to insulate my house with adult fiction. Faced with the reality that there is no way I can read 50 books in a three week period, I have to weed my pile of great reads. So, in the throes of spring cleaning, I am airing out the “To Read” pile that keeps growing on my bookshelf to leave room for fresh, new-to-me reads that take me out of my literary comfort zone. Spring is all about fresh beginnings, after all…
Thematically linked by their titles and not necessarily by content, here are a few great reads that made it through my rigorous spring clean. Who knows, maybe they’ll find a home on your “To Read” shelf, too!
Little Bird by Camilla Way
Three identities, no known name - and an obsessed pursuer from the past. Elodie grew up in the forest in France without speech. Snatched at the age of three by a troubled mute man, all she learns is bird song. When she is found as a teenager, the media frenzy brings ‘Little Bird' to a famous American linguist. So Elodie grows up in another country, with a new identity in a household sometimes more hostile than the forest she left. When violence strikes, Elodie flees again, to London. She is determined to put the past behind her and lead a normal life. But what happens if someone from her past won't let her go? What happens if someone falls in love with her? Little Bird is an extraordinary rich, wholly absorbing, psychological novel about identity, language and love.
Creation: a novel by Katherine Govier
In mesmerizing prose, novelist Katherine Govier explores this fateful summer in the life of a man as untamed as his subjects. Running two steps ahead of the bailiff, alternately praised and reviled by critics, John James Audubon set himself the audacious task of drawing, from nature, every bird in North America. The result was his masterpiece, The Birds of America, which he and his family published and sold to subscribers on both sides of the Atlantic. In June 1833, he enlisted his son and a party of young gentlemen to set sail for nesting grounds no ornithologist had ever seen, in the treacherous passage between Newfoundland and Labrador. Fogbound at Little Natashquan, he encounters Captain Henry Wolsey Bayfield of the Royal Navy, whose mission is to chart the labyrinthine coast to make it safe for sea traffic. Bayfield is an exacting and duty-bound aristocrat; the charismatic Audubon spins tales to disguise his dubious parentage and lack of training. Bayfield is a confirmed bachelor; Audubon is a married man in love with his young assistant. But the captain becomes the artist's foil and his measuring stick, his judge and, oddly, the recipient of his long-held secrets. In this atmospheric and enthralling novel, Katherine Govier recreates the summer in which "the world's greatest living bird artist" finally understood the paradox embedded in his art: that the act of creation was also an act of destruction.
Spring by David Szalay
James is a man with a checkered past – sporadic entrepreneur, one-time film producer, almost a dot-com millionaire – now alone in a flat in Bloomsbury, running a shady horse-racing tips operation. Katherine is a manager at a luxury hotel, a job she’d intended to leave years ago, and is separated from her husband. In 2006, at the end of the money-for-nothing years, their chance meeting leads to an awkward tryst, and James tries to make sense of a relationship where “no” means “maybe” and a “yes” can never be taken for granted. (Summary from back cover)
Birds in Fall by Brad Kessler
One fall night off the coast of a remote island in Nova Scotia, an airplane plummets to the sea as an innkeeper watches from the shore. Miles away in New York City, ornithologist Ana Gathreaux works in a darkened room full of sparrows, testing their migratory instincts. Soon, Ana will be bound for Trachis Island, along with other relatives of victims who converge on the site of the tragedy. As the search for survivors envelops the island, the mourning families gather at the inn, waiting for news of those they have lost. Here among strangers, and watched over by innkeeper Kevin Gearns, they form an unusual community, struggling for comfort and consolation. A Taiwanese couple sets out fruit for their daughter's ghost. A Bulgarian man plays piano in the dark, sending the music to his lost wife, a cellist. Two Dutch teenagers, a brother and sister, rage against their parents' death. An Iranian exile, mourning his niece, recites the Persian tales that carry the wisdom of centuries. At the center of Birds in Fall lies Ana Gathreaux, whose story Brad Kessler tells with deep compassion: from her days in the field with her husband, observing and banding migratory birds, to her enduring grief and gradual reengagement with life. Kessler's knowledge of the natural world, music, and myth enriches every page of this hauntingly beautiful and moving novel about solitude, love, losing your way, and finding something like home.