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Sleeping with the Blackbirds Paperback – August 30, 2015
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
About the Author
Alex Pearl is a slightly shambolic and extremely short-sighted advertising copywriter. He lives in NW London with his wife and two kids who are far smarter than their old man.
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Top customer reviews
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What I did like about this story was the concept – exploring both sides of bullying, the victim and the bully, as well as family and domestic violence. I also liked the personification of birds in the story, but being an English book, I was unfamiliar with the birds and so I have no idea how accurately they were portrayed.
The book was stated as being Young Adult, however, I disagree with this classification. The main protagonist was 11 years old, and usually these stories are intended for younger readers, or middle grade. After reading it, I feel that the author wasn’t sure who the audience of the story was. There were some elements of the story that seemed to be aimed at much older readers and then there were other elements that seemed geared toward very young children.
There didn’t seem to be much in the way of a real plotline with this book. There was a lot of meandering and deviating from the central plot and then being suddenly thrown back into the story again. The characters were one dimensional and unbelievable and I didn’t like any of them, including the main character, and I couldn’t summon up an ounce of sympathy or empathy for any of them. I also didn’t like how the story read as a fable, not a YA fantasy as it was depicted.
Overall, I didn’t particularly like this book. I feel there are better books out there that deal with these issues that are more suitable for different age groups.
The story contains a vast mixture of emotions and experiences and does an excellent job of showing how bad parenting may impact upon a child. The reader is given a sense of; how a child may feel; how they will try to find ways for dealing with their situation; the sorrow they experience when little comforts are destroyed or removed by the very people they are doing their best to cope with. The reader cannot help sympathising with the protagonist; Roy Nuttersley. They will admire his character and ‘secretly’ hope and encourage him to succeed. They may well find themselves laughing, cheering, crying and jumping for joy as Roy faces the vast range of experiences and challenges which assail him.
As the synopsis indicates, besides having to cope with his parents, Roy is also bullied. The emotions accompanying these experiences: fear; despair; acceptance of the ‘inevitable’; seeking refuge/escape while knowing it is unlikely to be achieved, are clearly brought out. The accounts are vivid, not only causing the reader to commiserate but to also become enraged with the bullies, particularly Harry Hodges, the ring leader. The author attempts to balance the facts by also delving into the bullies’ backgrounds, seeking to understand and explain their behaviour. This is an intelligent approach that is rarely seen and should be appreciated. There is no attempt to turn this into an exegesis on the subject; the information is simply included as a, relevant, part of the tale. Evidently the author’s aim is to help his own children, for whom the book was originally written, understand the world they would be living in as well as to seek to understand and empathise with other people’s life conditions. Naturally, an unsympathetic background is never a valid excuse but such understandings help put matters into context. The author also shows how an act of kindness, when least expected or deserved, may alter someone’s perspective. The story progresses at a good pace and, despite having moral lessons discreetly imbedded within, remains entertaining throughout. There is no attempt or intent to labour moral points or turn the book into a lecture.
In addition to the ‘factual’ accounts there is a fantasy element to this story: The Birds. The protagonist’s fascination with and kindness to them results in a camaraderie, though he may not recognise it. The author, whether an ornithologist or not, draws out the various bird’s reactions and behaviours in a very entertaining manner. The reader will undoubtedly laugh at some of their antics and cheer them on as they already have Roy. The lengths they go to in helping their friend, and themselves, are sometimes quite hilarious. In all parts the author paints a vivid picture that is easy to imagine. Is there ultimate success? The reader will have to find out for themselves.
The ending is unexpected and simply adds another delightful element to the book. It would be unfair to potential readers to give further details. Whether or not ‘YA’ is a reader’s normal genre most, young or old, will enjoy this story to some degree. It is well written and well told.
Pearl puts the fairytale aspect on full display, allowing the reader to ‘hear’ what the birds were ‘saying’ to each other. Enhancing the fantasy, the author assigns a specialize affinity to each species; the geese are the muscle, the magpies, thieves (I couldn’t get Rossini out of my head after reading that), and the blue tits, the interpreters of human speech. The leaders, as the title suggests, are the blackbirds.
The main protagonist, 11-year-old Roy Nuttersley doesn’t have an idyllic home life. His parents are invested in their self-absorbed priorities, chief among them is arguing with each other. To escape their incessant verbal contests, Roy seeks the solace of watching birds. He likes it so much, he built several bird feeders and hung them out for the birds to enjoy. Sensing Roy’s depressed emotional state, the intuitive birds take to following him to see what other influences are distracting the boy. If he becomes too depressed, he just might stop filling the bird feeders. The problems he experiences from an indifferent father and an obsessive compulsive mother are compounded when Roy goes to school. The class bullies, Harry Hodges and his friends, have targeted Roy for harassment and each day gets worse and worse. The last time, Harry had stolen Roy’s precious bird-watching binoculars.
For Harry’s part, stealing Roy’s binoculars wasn’t brazen enough to draw attention to his schemes, until one of his buddies suggested upping the ante; kidnapping Roy. As the reader quickly surmises, the birds will have none of this.
I don’t wish to give the game away by revealing too much of the plot. Suffice to say the ending results in a positive outcome for our protagonist, though the ending was a pleasant surprise for the reader. Even the bully’s well-drawn introspection, results in an optimistic resolution. It’s also a given that a fairytale is generally carried by the narrator, so hold that thought as you take in the story. One discordant note in the narrative were pronouncements to ‘global warming’ which didn’t appear to have anything to do with the plotline or the moral of the story. As a plot device, its inclusion had no relevance for the characters or the reader and struck me as gratuitous and unnecessary.
Most recent customer reviews
Such a lovely, magical, story! Like a fairy tale, but better.Read more