Review Blog

Oct 23 2017

A thousand paper birds by Tor Udall

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Bloomsbury, 2017. ISBN 9781408878644
(Age: Senior secondary - Adult) This lyrical story captures the imagination in its characters, its garden setting, its wonderful language and in its story-telling. From the beginning we are plunged into a world of sensory experiences, of smell particularly. Place matters in this text, and the gardens (based on Kew Gardens in London) feature prominently as a place of retreat of delight, of background, foreground and as a place that is so strongly real it justifies living.
Udall writes so lightly, it is as if his characters were the paper birds fashioned in origami, the art so passionately followed by one character. Her creations are exacting and beautiful, and express the depths of her being in a way that she cannot do herself. Chloe is young, an adolescent inexperienced in love, and unable to comprehend the adult world of anxieties, driving ambition and love. The physical she can do, and she brings her sense of wonder to a relationship with Jonah, and he begins to be healed after his tragic loss.
Loyalty and love, the warmth and exploration of the physical and mystical aspects of the joining to one other in sex, and the possibility of healing predominate in this lushly written novel of companionship, joy, friendship, love and nature. Udall's lilting prose is joyous, his characters complex and often troubled, but the world into which he places them is so green, majestic yet gentle, soft and calming that the unravelling of their individual worlds slowly seems to be controllable. A truly wonderful piece of literature, and a joy to read, Udall's work lifts the spirits, restores feelings of soundness to human life, and is utterly captivating.
Elizabeth Bondar

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