A Little Bird Told Me by Marianne Holmes
I had to stay up late to finish this book. I just had to find out how it would end.
There is a mystery, a time-slip, a lost mother, a murder (or two?), family violence, and a dangerous man – or two or three. Will our secrets protect us and the people we care about? Or do secrets make it worse?
Themes of domestic violence and the abuse of women and children underlie the fear that resonates through this narrative. Just so you know, I found this quite terrifying. The most violent character has power which he is not afraid to use.
The pacing, perspectives, and language of this gripping novel are pitch perfect for its subject matter.
Robyn, the Little Bird of the title, is a child in the first time line and young woman in the second. Secrets and subterfuge, plots and revenge, and a town that chooses not to see – these are the ingredients for the drama that takes several years to unfold to its satisfying conclusion.
Robyn’s brother Kit is admirable throughout, from his childhood of terror to his adulthood of looking after those he loves. Robyn is exactly as she should be for a narrator who doesn’t know everything. She is not unreliable, in the sense that she doesn’t deliberately mislead us, but she can’t know how her actions may have affected the scenes that she describes.
I found Robyn’s growth into independent womanhood and better understanding was very well managed. A particular strength of this book is the management of secondary characters. They are not cliches or shadows, but rounded people. I especially liked that Neil and Eva were able to develop and grow, and more fully express the truth of themselves, as the book proceeded. The characterisation and plot of this novel are its strong points, while the setting is more vague. This in effect makes the story more scary, as it could be set anywhere. I had to check to see whether this was a UK (it is), USA, Australian, NZ, or Canadian story…Anywhere, really.
Was the bad man punished? Was the crime punished enough? I guess every reader must decide. I thought that this was a realistic and just outcome.
This is a remarkable, strong novel of secrets and love.