In May this year Atlantic Books released the new book from Alice Greenway titled The Bird Skinner.
In The Bird Skinner we meet Jim Kennoway, it’s 1973 and Jim isn’t in great shape. The once renowned Ornithologist, who lived through the Second World War in the Far East, is now a drunk. He has had to retire from his post at the National History Museum in New York, and wants to live as a recluse in his old family boathouse on Fox Island, Maine.
Doesn’t sound like a character you can warm to does he? But actually you do. The Bird Skinner weaves back and forth through time as we learn more about Jim’s past and the reasons for his sorrow.
Kennoway had been posted in the Pacific during World War Two, he had befriended a local boy in the Solomon Islands and taught him how to collect and skin birds. Jim and Tosca worked together to spy on the Japanese and feed information on their activities back to base.
Back in 1973, Jim has kept his past to himself. He lost his beloved wife Helen many years ago. He keeps his son at arm’s length. He doesn’t want company, he doesn’t want to think. Drink blots out the past, be it the terror of war, the pain of loss or the loss of his leg through neglect.
But Jim has to face his past and his feelings when Cadillac, an unwanted visitor arrives at the boat house. She brings memories with her and words from her father, Tosca. Jim is taken aback by her appearance, and as the story unfolds we see Jim face his demons.
I love books that move between different periods, we revisit Jim’s childhood in the early 1900’s, we read about his war experiences in the 1940’s and what led him to be the man he is in 1973. I found that I really wanted to pick this book each night and discover more about this character. I warmed to him, wanted him to deal with the past and find comfort in his future.
I really enjoyed The Bird Skinner, it’s well written and interesting. I can thoroughly recommend it.