Dunedin Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute

Books Archive

Month: September 2016

Billy Bird (September 2016) – Athenaeum Book Club

By Emma Neale

September 1, 2016

Finalist New Zealand Book Awards

Athenaeum Book Club choice

Liam and Iris have one son: Billy, a bright ‘toddler puddling about like a penguin, leavng surrealist art installations all over the house – a tiny cow in a teapot in a hat on the doorstep, of course!  A stuffed crocidile 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 ensuring 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 unstich – and then mend – your heart several times over.

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