The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy

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The House of Birds by Morgan McCarthy

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Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: Transporting the reader between two equally fascinating stories set amongst the dreaming spires of Oxford, The House of Birds is a story that thrills with clever plots and beauitfully drawn characters, as well as fascinating insights into the social injustices of a time long gone by.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: November 2016
Publisher: Tinder Press
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1472205841

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Oliver has spent years trying to convince himself that he's suited to a life of money making in the city, and that he doesn't miss a childhood spent in pursuit of mystery, when he cycled around the cobbled lanes of Oxford, exploring its most intriguing corners. When his girlfriend Kate inherits a derelict house - and a fierce family feud - she's determined to strip it, sell it and move on. For Oliver though, the house has an allure, and amongst the shelves of a discarded, leather bound and gilded volumes, he discovers one that conceals a hidden diary from the 1920s. So begins a quest to discover the identity of the author, Sophia Louis. It is a portrait of war and marriage, isolation and longing and a story that will shape the future of the abandoned house - and of Oliver - forever.

There are a few cities that can claim to have a living, breathing spirit of their own - but I think Oxford is truly one of them - an immortal place that oozes history on every corner. It's fitting then, that author Morgan McCarthy has chosen to set her story here - a tale that slips between time periods and bring the present day together with the early 19th century into a stirring blend.

Many novels that flit between two time periods often focus mainly on one - the other serving more as a framing device than a story with any great impact or resolution for the characters. The House of Birds is no such book though - both Oliver and Sophia are fascinating, intricate characters who go through moving character arcs that sweep the reader along in their path - you're never eager to leave one time period and go into another, but you're never disappointed to find yourself in the company of either group of characters. It's also important to note that fascinating social issues are touched upon too, with Sophia a woman trapped in a loveless marriage, desperate to educate and better herself but finding constant barriers in the form of the society around her. It's surprisingly moving - and whilst thankfully it's not an issue in our country anymore, it's still something that occurs in various areas of the world, so it's fascinating to read a deep look at the problem here.

Beautiful and transporting, The House of Birds is, much like the house at the centre of the story, a place full of secrets and hidden treasures, with enchanting moments and vivid characters hidden in every shadowy corner. Many thanks to the publishers for the copy. For further reading I'm recommending Rooms by Lauren Oliver - another book that explores characters as it explored a house - deep and hugely moving.

We also have a review of The Outline of Love by Morgan McCarthy.

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