Published: March 2nd, 2023
Publisher: Tinder Press
Genre: Humorous Fiction, Domestic Fiction
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audiobook
Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the extraordinary All The Little Bird-Hearts. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to tkae part and to Tinder Press for the gifted copy of the book.
‘Glorious. Unforgettable’ Melissa Harrison
‘Funny, lyrical, deft and devastating’ Amy Sackville
‘A distinct and poetic new voice’ Clare Pollard
I lived for and loved a bird-heart that summer; I only knew it afterwards.
Sunday Forrester lives with her sixteen-year-old daughter, Dolly, in the house she grew up in. She does things more carefully than most people. On quiet days, she must eat only white foods. Her etiquette handbook guides her through confusing social situations, and to escape, she turns to her treasury of Sicilian folklore. The one thing very much out of her control is Dolly – her clever, headstrong daughter, now on the cusp of leaving home.
Into this carefully ordered world step Vita and Rollo, a couple who move in next door, disarm Sunday with their charm, and proceed to deliciously break just about every rule in Sunday’s book. Soon they are in and out of each others’ homes, and Sunday feels loved and accepted like never before. But beneath Vita and Rollo’s polish lies something else, something darker. For Sunday has precisely what Vita has always wanted for herself: a daughter of her own.
“I lived for and loved a bird-heart that summer, I only knew it afterwards.”
An enthralling and beautifully crafted debut, this book stole my heart. Filled with joy, anguish, judgement, honesty, and love, this is a story about being an outsider, and about overcoming the difficulties life throws at us. Lyrical and poetic, it is so exquisitely written that I lost myself in the prose and could have highlighted every word. Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow is a phenomenal new talent and definitely one to watch. I still can’t believe this is a debut novel and am very excited to see what she writes next.
“I still believed, then, that my way of not seeing only made me strange and unpopular; I did not know, then, that it blinded me to all the fires that were not in the fields.”
And while the writing is a huge part of the beauty of this book, what makes it extraordinary for me is the protagonist, Sunday Forrester. Sunday is the outsider. The oddity. The one who is always misunderstood. But inside she is kind, loving, genuine and funny; the sort of person we should aspire to be. Sunday also has autism. And she takes centre stage in the book, telling her own story in the first person; her acerbic, eye-opening and witty observations permeating the narrative. This puts the reader inside her head, offering us a unique insight into how it feels to see the world differently and giving us the chance to experience what it’s like to navigate a world you don’t really understand. I laughed with her, cried with her, felt her joy, and felt her pain. She has taught me so much about humanity and acceptance and is now one of my favourite protagonists.
“I do not expect to know another Vita. She was a person-shaped precious stone, something mined and brought up to the surface to live among the pebbles, a shiny reminder of our comparative dullness. Where I am pale and insubstantial, Vita was dark and deliberately formed, as real as a piece of marble.”
The other characters were also brilliantly written. I loved watching the friendship between Sunday and Vita grow, how Vita opened Sunday up to things she had never experienced, and how she was the yin to her yang. We know from the start that something went wrong between them and a sense of darkness and foreboding hovers over the pages. Yet I couldn’t quite decide how things would play out and was kept guessing right up until the end, creating a tension you can’t escape.
“I existed already in a form of maternal grieving, a refusal to accept that I had somehow lost my greatest love while still living alongside her.”
I also enjoyed how the author explores the complexities of the mother/daughter relationship throughout the book through many of the characters. But it is most evident in the relationships between Sunday and her mother, and Sunday and her daughter, Dolly. Sunday’s love for Dolly is all-consuming. She doesn’t understand her, but loves her fiercely and is incredibly proud of her headstrong only child. At 16, Dolly is full of teenage disdain for her mother and Sunday is left trying to navigate this new dynamic to their relationship. As a mother of two teenagers, I could relate to this, as well as to the pain Sunday felt at having lost her child in some way already, even though she was still there. But Sunday isn’t a good mother by example. Sadly her own mother never shows her any love and is often cruel and dismissive. She sees her as strange and wrong because of her autism. Sunday’s pain at this rejection leaped from the pages in heartbreaking clarity, as did her determination to ensure Dolly never feels the same rejection and pain she did. This made me love her character all the more.
“I do not envy other people’s ability to adapt; I find it alarming. Their minds are like caught fish, shining and struggling and engaged in a perpetual and pointless circular motion. Those like me swim on, unaffected by the change in currents around them.”
Illuminating, magnificent, heartbreaking and hopeful, All The Little Bird-Hearts is an unforgettable debut. It will stay with me for a long time and I cherish the new understanding it has given me. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
MEET THE AUTHOR:
Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow left school without any qualifications. When her youngest children started school she began studying too, and earned first-class undergraduate and postgraduate degrees followed by a PhD. Her first book, All the Little Bird-Hearts, will be published in 2023 and she is currently writing her second novel.
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Thanks for reading Bibliophiles xxxx
Please check out the reviews from the other bloggers taking part in the tour.
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