Tuesday, 6 May 2014

The Go-Away Bird by Warren FitzGerald (4.5/5)

First published: 2010
Page count: 277

The back says: Clementine is a young girl who loves to sing. Ashley is a singing teacher.

Clementine has seen things in her native Rwanda that no child should ever be allowed to see. Ashley’s troubled London childhood has left him vulnerable.
The Go-Away Bird is the story of how they meet and what happens to them thereafter. It is a story of how love can heal.

I say: This was a slow start for me, and I nearly gave up after a couple of chapters. I found Ashley’s story more interesting than Clementine’s, which felt contrived and unconvincing. But because I have a love for Rwanda, and even though I knew where this story was going and how it would make me feel, I kept reading.

And I am glad that I did.

Clementine and Ashley tell their stories in alternating chapters, Clementine’s starting a few days prior to the genocide and her talking about starting a new school. Ashley is a few days after the start and the genocide is present through his reading of newspapers and watching the news. I studied the genocide when I was at uni, so none of the information was new to me, but it was important that FitzGerald made those little incursions for the benefit of the readers unaware of the atrocities.

This is a tearjerker – of course – and sentimental and unlikely, but somehow FitzGerald made it work. Once the two main characters meet and form that special bond, I was simultaneously dreading and anticipating the inevitably heart-breaking end. And although it was heart-breaking, it was also hopeful and sweet.

4.5/5 because of all the emotions.

P.S. If you want to read more about the genocide in Rwanda read We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Families:Stories from Rwanda by Philip Gourevitch, which is non-fiction and amazing.

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