Member Reviews

I liked the premise of this novel and setting was well described. However, the slow narrative and the characters meant I felt disconnected from the story.

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This book is built around the premise that in the 1990s Western travellers disappeared from the area of Manali in the Parvaty Valley, India. This part of the world is known for its idyllic scenery of sweeping green valleys and snowcapped mountains, but also for its drug culture and lure into an off-the-grid lifestyle. When Torran goes missing there, it sends his parents into a downward spiral searching for him and ultimately also for the meaning of their own lives.

The main driver behind the plot are reflections about parenthood culminating in the one question: Where did we / I go wrong? The simple answer the book offers is that it is not just one thing but everything and nothing - a child’s actions may not even be based on anything their parents did or said. The story explores the complex mix of feelings that come with any such crisis, that are familiar to every parent: suffocating responsibility, guilt, sacrifice, resentment, disappointment and always the feeling that nothing is ever quite enough.

The credo of this book is aptly summed up in its epigraph: Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. The question of when and how to let go of them is central to the book and carries the narrative in this well told story.

I am grateful to NetGalley and John Murray Press / Hodder&Staughton Ltd for an ARC in exchange for an honest review

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Thank you NetGalley and John Murray Press for the ARC.

I was really excited for this book. Unfortunately, it was really disappointing. The pacing was slow and I wasn't interested in any of the relationships.

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Although this is a story of a mother searching for her missing son, it is also a journey of self discovery for the mother. Torren walked out of his hotel room 7 years prior to the story starting, leaving practically everything behind him, shoes, passport, money etc. His mother Anne never gives up hope that he is still alive and after several trips to try to find him stays in India for over 3 years searching. Her husband Robert believes that he has died and stays in Scotland. Eventually her niece Ester arrives with new information and they continue to search together.
Having never been to India I am not sure if the sights and sounds documented reflect India accurately. I found it a slow moving book full of hope and introspection. Not really for me.
Thank you to NetGalley and John Murray Press for the advance copy of this book.

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I was asked by NetGalley to review this beautiful book

Having been to India several times, I found I was transported back there asd I followed the journey that Anne was taking to find her son who had gone missing seven years previously. I could smell the smoke of fires, visualise people selling by road sides and this was really visual.

The author writes so well and the pace was just perfect.

So recommended and will look out for this author in future.

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This is a beautiful and amazing debut that filled my head with so many pictures as I followed the journey of Anne who was trying to find her son who had gone missing in India seven years ago. It’s a book that captivated me from the beginning the descriptions of beautiful scenery, the people and the emotions just filled my head it really was a stunning story and one that I shall always cherish.
The writing was perfect as was the pacing and as the book came to end I gave a large sigh, I knew it had to end but it left me feeling sad as I would miss the places and people I had been reading about but it also left me feeling wonderfully uplifted and for me that is all that I would ask for in reading a book and it’s really a read not to be missed.
Many, many thanks to Penelope Slocombe for this superb 5 star read I loved it.
My thanks also to NetGalley and John Murray Press for giving me the opportunity to read the ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.

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I went into this expecting something else. I found instead a very slow paced book on loss and relationships. But the pacing was far too slow for me. I felt I was reading a 500 page book not a 300 page one.

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This book is about a mother who tries to find her son. He went missing in India seven years ago. It is a very strong, gripping story and a journey of discovery with some wonderful characters.

Thank you to Net Galley and the author for an advanced copy.

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Thank you to NetGalley for giving me this book for a fair and honest review.

This was an ok book for me. I enjoyed the descriptions of Scotland and some were very accurate too. I didn’t feel invested though in the outcome and I didn’t have the interest in finishing this book. I just feel this story fell flat. I so wanted to read it and feel the way many reviewers did but I did not.

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Sunbirds is ostensibly about a mother (Anne) searching for her missing son Torran who disappeared in India 7 years ago whilst on a gap year. She is accompanied by her niece Esther, a journalist, with whom she has a strange love/hate relationship. However on a deeper level it is about Ann's search for herself. Her understanding of why she rejects everyone in her search for herself. I really didn't enjoy the book as much as other reviewers seem to have done. The fault may be mine I don't know. I suggest you try it and see.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read an advance copy. All opinions are my own.

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Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy of this book with no obligation to review.

I really enjoyed this book and found it to be an immersive and absorbing read. Most of the books I have read which are set in India are based in the cities with all their colour, vibrancy, huge populations, obvious poverty and inequality but this one takes the readers to the mountain areas which seem to be awe inspiring, beautiful and full of mystery and even danger. The book showed me a different, quieter, mistier India.

The book deals with love, friendships, family ties and complications, searches of various kinds, isolation in both a physical and psychological sense, desire for solitude, self realisation, selfishness, choices and their consequences - often things which are two sides of the same coin. Everything that happens is completely believable.

There is something so engaging about the writing and we get a real sense of each and every character in the book from major to minor. Everything is so well described that you can see it and almost feel that you are there. i was invested in the characters and desperate to know what was going to happen. I was particularly struck by the Last Chance Saloon and there is a real sense of danger in, for example, the journey back to it.

I suppose none of the characters are particularly likeable as such although I dont think that matters, we can understand their motives and possibly identify with them in their feelings and frailties.. Everyone in the book goes on some sort of journey which both confirms them and changes them.

The ending is not perhaps quite as we might have expected but it is not hopeless or sad.

If you like thought provoking, psychologically realistic books with no ridiculous, farfetched events or solutions, you will enjoy this great read.

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I enjoyed this book. The characters were interesting, flawed and well drawn out. Sometimes I felt like I was inhaling it rather than reading it as it was so rich. Well worth a read.

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This book is truly beautiful. I’m astounded that this is a debut novel. Penelope Slocombe transports the reader to northern India and the Himalayas then back again to Scotland, then back again, all the time ensuring the reader is invested in her characters, whether wholly likeable or not. Her writing is clever, wise, poetic, and thoughtful .
The main theme of self discovery is potent yet handled delicately. I was left wanting more, even though the book concludes well. Will definitely look out for this author’s next work. Cannot recommend this highly enough.

Thank you NetGalley and the Publishers, John Murray Press for this ARC. Excellent editing.

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Torran (18) disappears on a trip to India. Seven years later, his mother, Anne, has moved to India and continues to search for him. Her estranged niece, Esther, gets a tip off that Torran might be in a particular commune and goes to India to tell Anne. Despite their frosty relationship, the two women search.
But this is less of a mystery story and more of a journey through grief, self-discovery, forgiveness and reconciliation in a sumptuously described setting. Ideal for readers of slow-burning literary fiction.
With thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read an early copy in exchange for an independent review.

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4,5 stars. Anne searches for his son Torren, and her niece Esther accompanies her, and soon the search becomes a search for meaning.
It is hard to believe this is a debut. It is well-written and edited, telling layers of stories and human condition within only 300 pages.
The author is a master at her craft, and I enjoyed exploring life with Anne.
If you have been to India, you will find yourself revisiting it,
If you’re new to India, you will love it.
This book is bold and honest, and does not shy away from delving into deep topics.

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Anne’s teenage son disappeared in the Himalayas seven years ago.
She has never given up looking for him.
Now her niece has news of a sighting and the hunt is on to find him before he disappears again.
A slow moving story about loss and relationships.
Thank you to NetGalley and John Murray Press for my e-copy in exchange for an honest review.

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India is the star of this excellent novel - with all of the mystery and warmth and enigma of the land and people. Anne has been searching in India for her adult son who walked out of his hotel seven years ago and has disappeared into thin air. Nobody knows if he is alive or dead until a tantalising clue brings Anne back to the start of her search. There is so much to this novel - the trials and expectations of motherhood, self worth and self belief, the mysticism of India and the hippie trail and so much more. Penelope Slocombe handles all of this with a deft and light touch and you find yourself drawn into the lives of the people this disappearance has touched. A remarkable debut novel.

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The foothills of the Himalayas are the setting for this story of a missing son. Scenic descriptions of trekking into the wilderness are outstanding taking you with them step by step. The joys and sorrow of the search are told with penetrating realism. This is a truly emotionally descriptive journey of a narrative.

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Well I requested this book on a whim to broaden my reading, it wouldn't have been my normal choice in a book shop. However, this book is incredible. I was gradually drawn in to the lives of the characters. Although I'm not a mother I did empathise with Anne. She wasn't overly mawkish , oh woe is me, more a trapped spirit aching for freedom and some answers along the way which I can relate to. The writing is very descriptive and evocative of India, you really get a sense of the place. It reminded me in some ways of Waiting for Godot where Anne was perhaps the only one truly waiting. I liked the imagery of the birds and their symbolism. The ending , at first I thought was rather weak but then as I thought about it , probably better than a nicely packaged all well type. I think this would make a great film and i've already cast it!

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book, the writing is beautiful. I felt like I had traveled to India with Anne. I would love to actually visit this country because Penelope Slocombe’s book describes it so well.
Anne has traveled to India to search for her missing son who she hasn’t heard from for seven years. Being the mother of two sons myself, one of whom I don’t see, my heart ached for her. Sunbirds is a beautiful book that I would highly recommend. I’m looking forward to Penelope Slocombes next novel.
Thank you to Netgalley and the author for the opportunity to read and review this amazing book.

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