The Go-Away Bird by Warren FitzGerald
Blue Door (HarperCollins): Paperback published 2011: 277 pages
A funny, poignant and hopeful story of two different lives and how friendship can blossom in the most unlikely circumstances.
Clementine is a young girl who loves to sing. Ashley is a singing teacher.
Clementine has seen things in her native Rwanda that no child should ever be allowed to see. Ashley’s troubled London childhood has left him vulnerable.
The Go-Away Bird is the story of how they meet and what happens to them thereafter. It is a story of how love can heal.
This is one of the most simply-written, beautiful books I’ve read in a very, very long time. The unlikely friendship between Ashley and Clementine is heartwarming and heartbreaking. Ashley is a self-harming, broke singing teacher whose abusive father has left him isolated and afraid. Clementine is a young half-Hutu and half-Tutsi girl from Rwanda, whose family is killed during the Hutu-Tutsi genocides in the 90s, and as a refugee has come to live with her drunk and abusive Hutu uncle in London.
When Ashley and Clementine meet, they find something they had not had before – human connection. Ashley soon realises that someone needs him, and he needs them. As they tell each other their stories, they realise that two opposing worlds are coming together in a very unlikely alliance. But when Clementine’s uncle makes a dramatic decision, it’s left to Ashley and his medley of unusual friends to come to Clementine’s – and his – rescue.
This is a stunning book. I’ve barely recovered from Hotel Rwanda – and now this!? But it’s definitely worth it, in all its heartbreaking glory. It’s sweet and funny and feels incredibly real. Also, I am a child of the 90s, so a lot of the era references are basically a revisit to my childhood (though I think my parents shielded my innocent, fragile mind from the horrors of the genocides, thank goodness). I honestly can’t praise it high enough.
Simple, raw and fast writing makes this a book you speed through, desperate for the next paragraph, the next page, the next chapter. You want to devour this book word by word as fast as you can. But the characters are tangible, and that’s what creates this beautiful story. Just be warned: YOU WILL CRY.
Next book: I was so emotionally exhausted by this book, that I went for Nourishment by Gerard Woodward (an old uni lecturer of we Spartans). Described as a black comedy (and remembering Mr Woodward’s comic genius from uni) I thought it might relax my highly-strung emotional wreck of my self…