Review: Birdy Flynn
I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Birdy Flynn by Helen Donohoe
Published by Rock The Boat on 2nd March 2017
It is the summer and a group of children are playing down by a stream when they do a terrible thing. Something that Birdy tries unsuccessfully to avert. While the other children in the gang find it easy to forget what they have done, Birdy is trapped in the moment and feels bound to do something to make amends. But how does a child face up to responsibility and find the courage to do the right thing?
Okay, so let me start by saying that I struggle with anything related to animal suffering. My husband thinks it’s weird (it probably is) that in watching films or tv shows I care more about the animals than the characters! I’ve always been this way though, Mum had to remove all traces of Bambi from the house when I was a kid because I was so upset. It wasn’t that the Mum died, it was that a deer died that left me in tears. So yea, most of my family think I’m weird so feel free to agree with them.
Anyway, how does this relate to Birdy Flynn? Well, the book begins with Birdy’s dead Grandmother’s cat being tortured by the boys she hangs out with. So Birdy has to put an end to the cat’s suffering. This is one of the secrets that she hides throughout the novel – while her family search for the cat, she hides what truly happened.
Now, obviously, I’d read the synopsis so I knew it was going to happen – but oh my wee heart when it did! I had to do the book reading equivalent of watching the tv through your fingers – skim read.
Ok, so this book isn’t about the cat. No, it’s about Birdy – a young girl with an Irish mother and a Liverpudlian father living near London in 1982, the height of the IRA bombings.
Birdy is a fascinating character who has more in common with the boys in her life than the girls. Indeed, Birdy struggles throughout this book with her gender identity. We see not only her own journey, but also how those around her handle the situation.
Birdy keeps secrets – the cat, her confusion over her body, the fact her teacher touched her. Rather than confide in anyone, Birdy writes letters which she hides, keeping in a tin with the intention of perhaps one day sending them to the Daily Telegraph (her only reading source, the paper her mother takes from one of the houses she cleans).
Birdy’s home life isn’t easy. Yes, she has lots of aunties, uncles and cousins, but her Dad drinks a lot, her Mum works all hours, her sister leads her own life and her older brother is gone.
Donohoe tackles many issues in this novel. Among them, she gives us an insight into the treatment of Irish families living in England in the 1980s. The distrust and contempt shown towards them in the aftermath of another IRA bomb.
As a child of the 80s, I really appreciated many of the references in this book – Jim Bowen of Bullseye and boxer Barry McGuigan both featured in my own childhood!
The story is told through Birdy’s eyes, and as such I felt that there were many unanswered questions. However, I guess that’s a reflection of Birdy’s confusion, her own search for answers that allows the reader to connect with her.
All in all, this is a moving read. I enjoyed it well enough but wasn’t blown away by it. I found Birdy to be an interesting character who I really cared about – I just wanted to give her a hug!