Catherine Czerkawska has taken a bold step by beginning the book after the main story has finished – or at least the story most readers will be interested in. Consequently it’s apparent right from the outset that there will be no happy ending, no glorious sunset for the hero and heroine to ride into as the last notes fade away.
In truth, that’s just one of many bold moves by this accomplished writer. Bird of Passage explores difficult and dangerous territories. After being torn from a loving mother, Finn O’Malley spends much of his childhood and youth in a brutal catholic Industrial School in Ireland. He is profoundly damaged by the experience, yet the
psychological scars he carries run all the deeper because he knows he fared far better than others. Kirsty has a much more charmed childhood, growing up on a small Scottish island with her mother and grandfather, never realising life can be anything but warm and well-fed and pleasant until she meets Finn.
Bird of Passage is a love story, yet hero and heroine spend aconsiderable part of the novel apart. This is effective as it allows the two characters to develop in their own right, but it’s also frustrating as it’s obvious they should be together. Circumstances contrive to keep them apart yet the reader can’t even have the satisfaction of blaming cruel fate, since at least some of those circumstances are of their own making. The author isn’t afraid to let her characters have faults and frailties. Even as we’re rooting for Finn and Kirsty, we’re sorry for the husband left behind, who is by no means the villain of the piece and whose only real fault lies in the fact that he’s the wrong person for Kirsty but has been too weak or too blinded by his own feelings to accept that fact.
The relationship between Kirsty and Finn is a maze of complications. As children they are soulmates, but as they grow and their feelings intensify, the demarcation lines between love and obsession become blurred. There are definite overtones of Wuthering Heights and the tortured relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff and although I didn’t sense quite the same degree of insanity between Finn and Kirsty, there was certainly a desperate selfishness and ultimately a determination to be together no matter what the cost should be to others, including Kirsty’s two daughters.
There are no pat answers in this story and no neatly contrived solutions. Endings are jagged, situations remain unresolved. Yet at the end of the book there is a feeling of satisfaction that things did work out as they should – at least to some extent. I think that makes the story and its characters all the more realistic and credible. It’s hard to pigeonhole this book to a specific genre. It’s a love story, yet sometimes defies the label. It’s contemporary, yet dwells quite a bit in the past. As to its audience – I think this would appeal to readers who don’t need to be led by the hand and who enjoy
challenging relationships. Wholeheartedly recommended.
Reviewed by Gilly Fraser
Bird of Passage is Available in Kindle format
To find out more about Catherine Czerkawska