Flight of a Starling by Lisa Heathfield
|Flight of a Starling by Lisa Heathfield|
|Reviewer: Anne Thompson|
|Summary: A story of families, sisters, secrets and first love this builds slowly to a heart-breaking climax of loss but ultimately offers hope too. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 320||Date: June 2017|
|Publisher: Electric Monkey|
|External links: Author's website|
Rita and Lo are sisters and best friends too. Their partnership extends to a double act as a trapeze act in the travelling circus that forms a backdrop to their lives. Always on the move, travelling from one place to another, never staying in one town for long is all they have ever known. The sisters are surrounded by the love of their family and the close friends who make up the other circus acts. Their lives are happy and secure. Until one day Lo meets a boy, a special boy named Dean. Their growing friendship, together with a secret that Lo discovers, will change things for ever.
This third novel by Lisa Heathfield is told as a dual narrative with sections told by Lo and others by her older sister, Rita. I thought that this worked extremely well as the two voices had similarities but were distinct too, much as real life sisters often are. The book starts in the present and is then told in flashback. The reader therefore knows from the start the way in which the story will end but not how this happens. It says much for the quality of the writing that at times I forgot this as I became wrapped up in the story. Initially however it was this knowledge that hooked me as it is a little slow to start, with all the characters introduced being introduced pretty quickly too. Gradually as I grew to know the two girls, particularly Lo, this became a book that was very difficult to put down.
The main premise of the story is in many ways a sort of Romeo and Juliet for our age. The prejudices shown by the townspeople to the travellers are recognisable and the circus families are determined to keep themselves separate from the flatties who watch their shows. Sixteen year old Lo is the heart of this story and the author manages to convey the mixture of attitude and bravado together with a fragile innocence that make up her character extremely effectively. I cared about Lo and as the plot reaches it emotional climax I was stunned and frankly almost unbelieving. Initially this stage of the story did feel a little rushed and unexpected but on re-reading I think that it was in keeping with the speed with which Lo's life had altered. Her emotions and reactions are heightened due to the feeling of lack of time she has due to the ever-moving nature of her life.
The descriptive writing is beautiful and Lisa Heathfield captures the magic of the circus in a way which felt believable to me. It is the characters and their relationships that make this story special. There are some wonderful characters in this book. I particularly liked the girls' Grandfather and Lo's friend, Spider. In fact I would be interested to read Spider's story too.
The emotional content of this story is utterly heart-breaking and despite being forewarned it crept up on me unexpectedly and as a parent I found it upsetting. Without giving plot spoilers this is difficult to describe but this is not a book I would suggest for younger, impressionable readers. However it's not often you can say that a book may save a life but this one just might do that. An emotional book with an important message.
Thank you to the publishers for providing this copy for review. My favourite book about sisters, and another emotional read but a very beautiful one, is One by Sarah Crossan.
You can read more book reviews or buy Flight of a Starling by Lisa Heathfield at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Flight of a Starling by Lisa Heathfield at Amazon.com.
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