I’m in the tiniest of minorities regarding The Birdman’s Wife by Melissa Ashley.
I didn’t like it.
There was too much of what irritates me about (some) historical fiction. Specifically:
1. Info dumping – yeah, the research has been done down to the tiniest detail. But please don’t remind me of those details over and over again. And please don’t tell me every single detail you discovered about the time period you’re writing about.
The puddle on the living-room floor shimmered like glass and without warning Henry ran through it, his footprints shining on the floorboards. If I had a dropper, I could have siphoned it up, I thought. The straw-coloured liquid was a highly effective fixative for grinding pigment, and boys’ urine was still sold by art suppliers for such a purpose…
‘The Governor relished our discussion about the scientific curiosities of the settlement. I think I provided a welcome break from his administrative challenges, from the threats of the English Parliament to put a stop to the transportation of prisoners to New South Wales. Sir John fears all convicts will be sent to Van Dieman’s land, turning it into a dumping ground. Apparently the resources here, what with the drought in New South Wales, are stretched to breaking point.’
2. Awkward dialogue – you know in soap operas how the script writers deliberately repeat details so that new viewers can pick up the storyline? For example, instead of someone walking into a room and saying, “How are you?”, they say “Hello Brooke, how was your day after your confrontation with Ridge? Is he furious about you betraying him with Eric?” It makes dialogue so clumsy and unnatural.
‘The final work seems well worth the sacrifice,’ Mr Darwin pronounced, tapping a neatly-clipped fingernail on his chin. ‘I’d be glad to see one of these magnificent creatures alive.’
‘I agree. Many a time I dreamed of the quetzal coming to life, particularly when I began to paint its sublime feathers. I’m flattered you think I’ve captured the essence in some way.’
3. It’s the ‘olden days’, let’s make the language flowery – a tough one because some authors pull off period language superbly but if it’s not done well, it’s painful.
…Reverend Ewing insisted there was no time to tarry. The hour nigh for hunting, we made haste disembarking the wagon…
…promenaded the banks of the Derwent, gazing into the tempestuous sky stretched over the sapphire harbour.
2/5 Sorry fans….
I received my copy of The Birdman’s Wife from the publisher, Simon & Schuster, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.
The British Zoological Society held a lavish meal in honour of the Goulds –
“We ate savoury pastries arranged like a flotilla of geese on a silver tray, and to conclude our feast we were each presented with a meringue shaped to resemble a tiny satin bird’s bower.”