Mateship With Birds

by Carrie Tiffany (Picador) ISBN 978-1-4472-1986-6


Set on a dusty farm in the rural town of Cohuna, Australia in the 1950s, this novel is really a reflection on what makes a family.


Harry is a dairy farmer with a keen love of birds. He keeps a journal on a family of Kookaburra that he observes on his farm. Carrie Tiffany uses this to parallel Harry’s experience of the family he has with Betty, a single mother and her two children.


Sex, lust and desire are firmly meshed into this book. It is heavily present within the language and direct descriptions of the characters’ sexual desires. Sexual desires which never seem to be fully realized.


If elegant prose and intricate description comes first over plot for you, you will enjoy this novel. The strength of the book lies in the language and description. The parallels drawn between the human characters and the birds create a fragmented storyline, which can be confusing. The same subtlety in the descriptions creates characters that feel one-dimensional. Harry’s poetry about his bird family is well written, but does slow down an already slow story.


The book could be interpreted as brilliant or boring. I found it a bit of both.


Victoria Malakou


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