Moving, insightful, lyrical and also at times very funny, this novel is a supple, disarmingly frank exploration of parenthood.
Liam and Iris have one son: Billy, a bright ‘toddler puddling about like a penguin, leaving surrealist art installations all over the house— a tiny cow in a teapot in a hat on the doorstep, of course! A stuffed crocodile in a silk camisole perched beside a woollen chick in a beanie on the bread-bin, why not!’
Just as they are despairing about being able to conceive another child, Jason comes into their family. He arrives under fraught circumstances, but might just make a perfect sibling for Billy. Jason is a ‘ lovely, poor, sad, unfortunate, ordinary, annoying, delightful nuisance of a ratbag of a hoot of a kid ’ and the boys grow close over the ensuing years. But after a terrible accident, Billy turns into a bird. He utterly believes it: and as his behaviour becomes increasingly worrying, Liam and Iris must find a way to stop their family flying apart.
When extracts of Billy Bird won the NZSA Peter and Dianne Beatson Fellowship, the judges said the project was ‘inventive, joyful and beautifully written’. Ripe with playfulness, yet also unforgettably poignant, this novel will unstitch — and then mend — your heart several times over.
About the author
Emma Neale, a poet and prose writer, was born in Dunedin and raised in Christchurch, San Diego CA, and Wellington. After gaining her first literature degree from Victoria University, she went on to complete her MA and PhD at University College, London. She has written five novels — Night Swimming, Little Moon, Relative Strangers, Double Take and Fosterling — and a number of poetry collections, and has edited anthologies of both short stories and poetry. Neale won the Todd New Writers’ Bursary in 2000, was the inaugural recipient of the NZSA Janet Frame Memorial Award for Literature (2008), and was the 2012 Robert Burns Fellow at the University of Otago. Her poetry collection The Truth Garden won the Grattan Award for poetry in 2011, and Fosterling was shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Award in 2012. She teaches, works in publishing and looks after her two young sons.
Billy Bird tackles serious themes with humour and insight; and brilliantly succeeds in being both a quirky and a beautifully-crafted work.
A delightful and insightful read. Funny, sad, gentle, sweet and uplifting. Characters are believable, fallible and lovable.