Where Do You Go, Birdy Jones?
When Birdie’s teacher tells her to complete an assignment titled ’Who Am I?’, she’s stuck; she’s not supposed to talk about her only friend, the mysterious Dogger, and her classmates will mock her if they discover that she spends all her free time with her Grandpa’s homing pigeons. Even worse, Birdie’s memories of her late mum are slipping away, and she doesn’t fit in with her dad’s new family well enough to claim them as her own. In order to explain who she ‘is’, Birdie realises that she must first investigate the secrets of her past.
Birdie is eleven, and about to finish primary school. It’s unusual to read such an explicit coming of age story for a character so young, but like every aspect of Nadin’s novel, this decision has been made with deliberation and assurance. Birdie is embarking on a grounded, deeply personal journey, not so much about changing her world as it is about her fully understanding her place in it. A different writer might have structured the ending as a pull-the-rug-out twist, but Nadin instead guides both Birdie and the reader to a gradual realisation, resulting in an emotional catharsis that’s much deeper than simple shock.
Nadin’s language is sumptuously rich, but always true to the voice of her distinctive main character, and Sophie Burdess’ stunning cover perfectly captures the novel’s mix of melancholy and joy. Highly recommended.