There is the secret of Birdy’s dead grandmother’s cat. How the boys tortured it and Birdy Flynn had to drown her in the river to stop her suffering. There’s the secret of Mrs. Cope, the popular teacher, who touched Birdy in the cupboard. The secret of the gypsy girl at school who Birdy likes, but she can’t tell anyone. Because Birdy’s other secret is that while she plays and fights as good at the boys, she is a girl, and she doesn’t always feel like a girl is supposed to.
Her beloved Irish mother has her own troubles, as does the rest of her rowdy family. So Birdy decides to do what she feels she has to – hold onto her secrets and try and become what others want, even if it means suffering, and the risk of losing herself.
In this luminescent, sad and funny portrayal of a girl growing up amid an imperfect family, Helen Donohoe has created a beautifully nuanced and deeply felt novel. Whatever their own story, every reader will recognize in Birdy their own struggle to find their place in the world.
How did I get the book? Received from publisher in exchange for an honest review
Genre: Historical Fiction / LGBTQIA
Review: Birdy Flynn was not the book I anticipated. It’s set in 1982 with The Falklands War, the Pope visit and the Hyde Park & Regent’s Park bombings in July that year all impacting Birdy’s life to some extent. Particularly the bombings which, as most of Birdy’s family is Irish, has aftershocks.
Initially I thought this story was a contemporary book, so it took me a moment to readjust. Because of the timeline of Birdy’s story, the narration presents extra obstacles. Birdy says that ‘nobody listens to children.’ Teachers are presented as uninterested (distracted by funding cuts and politics) so when Mrs. Cope is nice to Birdy it’s like a horrible trap.
Birdy’s family is a mess but also loving. With Birdy’s mother working shifts to keep everything together, while Birdy’s father rages at the world. Birdy’s parents don’t know what to do with Birdy. They love their child but don’t understand. Telling Birdy to dress like a girl and be more like Birdy’s sister is heart-breaking to read. Yet at other times they (especially Birdy’s mother) have moments when they do wonderful things. Ultimately though Birdy doesn’t trust that they can be told secrets.
The writing is descriptive and I felt that the pacing was gentle; it matched the world I’d pictured for Birdy. Sometimes I pick up YA books and think they could just as easily been in the Adult section of a bookstore, I think Birdy Flynn is such a crossover book. It would appeal with both audiences.
There is a lot in Birdy’s story. It’s not just Birdy’s secrets that are important or the things that happen to Birdy. It’s the whole environment Birdy is growing up in, the family, all the other secrets. It did take me a while to become immersed in this book but by the end my emotions were just as tied up as Birdy’s.
RockTheBoat are giving away 3 Birdy Flynn proof copies.
All you have to do is click on this link HERE for chance of winning.