Bird Life

This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.
Buy on Amazon Buy on Waterstones.com
*This page contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you.
Send NetGalley books directly to your Kindle or Kindle app

1
To read on a Kindle or Kindle app, please add kindle@netgalley.com as an approved email address to receive files in your Amazon account. Click here for step-by-step instructions.
2
Also find your Kindle email address within your Amazon account, and enter it here.
Pub Date 9 Nov 2023 | Archive Date 10 Jan 2024

Talking about this book? Use #BirdLife #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


Description

The second novel by Booker Prize–longlisted author Anna Smaill. A lyrical and ambitious exploration of madness and what it is like to experience the world differently.

In Ueno Park, Tokyo, as workers and tourists gather for lunch, the pollen blows, a fountain erupts, pigeons scatter, and two women meet, changing the course of one another’s lives. 

Dinah has come to Japan from New Zealand to teach English and grieve the death of her brother, Michael, a troubled genius who was able to channel his problems into music as a classical pianist — until he wasn’t. In the seemingly empty, eerie apartment block where Dinah has been housed, she sees Michael everywhere, even as she feels his absence sharply. 

Yasuko is polished, precise, and keenly observant — of her students and colleagues at the language school, and of the natural world. When she was thirteen, animals began to speak to her, to tell her things she did not always want to hear. She has suppressed these powers for many years, but sometimes she allows them to resurface, to the dismay of her adult son, Jun. One day, she returns home, and Jun has gone. Even her special gifts cannot bring him back. 

As these two women deal with their individual traumas, they form an unlikely friendship in which each will help the other to see a different possible world, as Smaill teases out the tension between our internal and external lives and asks what we lose by having to choose between them.

The second novel by Booker Prize–longlisted author Anna Smaill. A lyrical and ambitious exploration of madness and what it is like to experience the world differently.

In Ueno Park, Tokyo, as workers...


Advance Praise

Praise for The Chimes:

‘A totalitarian regime inflicts amnesia through music in this fresh and complex novel, which shows the social importance of an understanding of the past … fresh and original … cleverly orchestrated and poignantly conveyed throughout.’ – Catherine Taylor, The Guardian


‘The novel is hypnotic, melancholic, and requires concentration, but it builds to an incredibly tense and emotionally satisfying climax that rewards all the effort.’ –Elle Magazine


‘To call The Chimes striking is I dare say to underplay what might be the most distinctive debut of the decade. Certainly, Smaill’s experience as a poet come through clearly in her perfectly poised prose. There’s a real richness to her images; a depth to her descriptions; her dialogue practically sparkles; and the structure of the whole thing sings.’ – Niall Alexander, tor.com

Praise for The Chimes:

‘A totalitarian regime inflicts amnesia through music in this fresh and complex novel, which shows the social importance of an understanding of the past … fresh and original …...


Available Editions

ISBN 9781915590039
PRICE £16.99 (GBP)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (PDF)
Send to Kindle (PDF)
Download (PDF)

Average rating from 20 members


Featured Reviews

I loved Dinah and Yasuko. The book is a very poignant exploration of mental illness. Beautifully written and very sad. Almost too beautiful to describe the condition if that makes sense. I shall now read The Chimes

Was this review helpful?

Set in Tokyo, Bird Life opens arrestingly with two women in a city park, one a foreigner prostrate on the grass, carefully ignored by passersby, the other striding out perfectly groomed but with one shoe missing. Dinah has taken a job as a native English teacher in a technical university where Yosuko also teaches, fleeing a terrible grief for which she feels responsible. Sensing her misery, Yosuko draws Dinah into her orbit, convinced the young woman will help her find her son who has suddenly left home. Yosuko’s carefully polished beauty and exquisite grooming hide her inner turmoil. Since childhood, she’s been bedevilled by manic episodes, episodes that her son has come to dread yet she almost longs for.
Anna Smail slips smoothly between these two women, unfolding their stories of madness and loss in gorgeous dreamlike prose. Both Dinah and Yasuko are expertly drawn – Yasko’s glittering vividness attracting Dinah whose own quiet suffering is carefully sealed in. This is a character driven novel, little in the way of plot, yet it gripped me from its striking setup. Grief and madness are difficult themes to explore but Smail does it with great skill and a lyrical delicacy leaving her readers with much to think about and much to admire.

Was this review helpful?

An absolutely beautiful and haunting novel by Anna Smaill, author of The Chimes. Set in Tokyo, the book follows the gradually intertwining stories of Dinah, a New Zealander who has come to Japan to teach English, and Yasuko, a sophisticated older teacher at the same language school. Both women are dealing with loss and betrayal and the narrative gradually explores their backstories whilst interweaving elements of (possibly) magical realism or (possibly) mental illness. This was an exquisitely crafted novel which is still staying with me days after I have finished it. Highly recommended.

Was this review helpful?

What a delicate book about two women (Yosuko and Dinah) with difficult pasts who are trying to get through their day-to-day life in Japan. Anna Smaill's writing is so beautiful and emotionally resonant especially in how the two characters process their lives (routines, looping thoughts, specific purchases, etc.). Throughout the book, Smaill focuses on the details that make up the characters' existence (workplace relationship, loneliness of a big city, difficult relationship with parents, etc) so that we grow to care about them. The novel was a wonderful and beautiful story. Recommended.

Was this review helpful?

Published 9th November. This book has an almost dreamlike quality at times as we wander between the interior lives of Yasuko and Dinah, our main characters. Dinah has travelled from New Zealand to Japan to teach English in a Tokyo school. Yasuko teaches at the same school. Both women are suffering from loss - Dinah of her twin brother, Michael, who she was very close to and Yasuko of her son, Jun. Believing that Dinah has been sent to help her, Yasuko befriends her to try to get her to engage with Jun. When she was 13, Yasuko discovered that she could talk to animals, and they would tell her things. They told her that her mother would die and her father would not take her seriously - something that causes them to become estranged. Later when she is a single mother, she believes that her father is trying to take Jun from her and so runs away. Her 'powers' later return which causes Jun to leave home. Dinah finds it difficult to be in the world, even to be in her flat and so spends her nights sleeping on a bench in the park until Michael's presence comes to stay. As I said there is a magical realism quality to some of the events in this book and there is also, I believe, an exploration of mental illness. But - there is also a lot about how our relationships with others can affect us. Superbly crafted.

Was this review helpful?

This book beautifully captured grief and emotions and mental illness as a whole. I loved reading the development of these two women and their interactions with the wider world.

Was this review helpful?

Readers who liked this book also liked: