Sunday 4 June 2017

A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall @TorUdall @BloomsburyBooks @PhilippaCotton

After the sudden death of his wife, Audrey, Jonah sits on a bench in Kew Gardens, trying to reassemble the shattered pieces of his life.
Chloe, shaven-headed and abrasive, finds solace in the origami she meticulously folds. But when she meets Jonah, her carefully constructed defences threaten to fall.
Milly, a child quick to laugh, freely roams Kew, finding beauty everywhere she goes. But where is her mother and where does she go when the gardens are closed?
Harry's purpose is to save plants from extinction. Quiet and enigmatic, he longs for something - or someone - who will root him more firmly to the earth.
Audrey links these strangers together. As the mystery of her death unravels, the characters journey through the seasons to learn that stories, like paper, can be refolded and reformed. Haunted by songs and origami birds, this novel is a love letter to a garden and a hymn to lost things.

A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall is published by Bloomsbury in hardback on 15 June 2017 and is the author's debut novel.

There are some times when I really wish I hadn't started this blog, and this is one of those times. Why? Because, I know that I'm not able to do this book justice with my words. The beauty of this book, from the exquisite cover, through the incredible writing, right up to the final paragraph is outstanding, the characters are lingering in my head, in my heart.

Usually when I begin a new book, I dive in and read as much as I can straight away. The first two pages of A Thousand Paper Birds, entitled 'Audrey's Smile' stopped me in my tracks. I read it, I read it again, I read it out loud to my husband. These are two short pages of pure beauty; poignant, emotional and so effective, and really are a taste of the joys to come from this story.

This is the story of four adults and one child, set against the exotic and astonishing backdrop of Kew Gardens in London. The garden itself becomes a character, as this talented author describes the flowers, the peace, the joy and the sorrow that are found there. Jonah's wife Audrey is dead, he is struggling to come to terms with the loss of his young, beautiful wife. His grief is all consuming and is an extension of his relationship with Audrey, for they grieved together over the years, for the children that didn't arrive.

Chloe is an artist, Harry is a gardener and child Milly is a precocious and effervescent girl who finds joy in everything. These three characters hold the clues to Audrey's death, and to the events that led up to that tragic day when she crashed her car, and didn't come home.

I truly felt as though these characters were written for me! As they spoke, I nodded in agreement, I felt them, I understood them completely. I am a page-corner-bender, when I find a phrase or a line in a book that touches me, I bend over the page. Sometimes I am criticised for it, when I came across this conversation between Harry and Audrey, I sighed in appreciation;

"I've never understood why people get angry when someone turns down a corner. I bet some authors love to have their books underlined, doodled on - to be lived in."
"The book I'm reading at the moment is crinkled with bathwater. There are coffee spills, a greasy stain - perhaps mayo - ."
"So your own life has become part of the story?"
I have lots of folded corners in my copy, this book is packed with phrases and dialogue that took away my breath, and occasionally brought tears to my eyes.

A Thousand Paper Birds is so so intricate, so very perfectly balanced. There's a touch of magical realism that fits so smoothly into the story and the author handles the delicate subjects of death and grief so very well. Whilst some of the characters may be ethereal, their stories and feelings are human and authentic.

Tor Udall takes the process of grieving and handles it with delicacy and ease. These relationships are rich and crafted so very well.

A beautiful beautiful novel that should be savoured and treasured, and will be remembered for a long time. Stunning, Just stunning.

My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review.

After studying theatre and film at Bristol University, Tor Udall co-founded a dance-theatre company and spent most of her twenties directing, writing and performing.
Having won a competition at the age of nineteen, she directed a theatre piece for the Olivier stage at the National Theatre.
She also choreographed an opera for the Royal College of Music. She taught theatre and dance for several years and currently works part-time as an editor for a creative consultancy.
She lives in London with her husband and two young children.
A Thousand Paper Birds is her first novel.

Follow her on Twitter @TorUdall

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