disclosure: we were sent the item mentioned for the purpose of review
I recently had the opportunity to read The Birds That Do Not Sing which is the debut novel by Steve Gay. Published through Rook Abbey Press in November 2020, the story tells the story of Jim as he lives through the Coventry Blitz and how it affects him years later.
The story of The Birds That Do Not Sing flips between the current day, and the memories of a ten-year-old Jim Brown who lived in Rugby, close to the city of Coventry in the 1940s. The Second World War is apace and the German bombers are causing destruction wherever they fly. Jim’s family are a little different from the norm, his father is a fierce socialist and not religiously minded and his older brother is a conscientious objector.
Modern-day Jim is an elderly man who wants to track down his old house in Rugby and a concrete elephant that his father made, that lived in their garden. As a child, he shared many experiences with the elephant and he’s hoping that finding the elephant will help him move on from the memories of the blitz that still haunt him all these years later.
He finds the house, the elephant and meets the family who lives in the house now, journalist Harry, his wife Carol and their young daughter. As Jim starts to retell his story he’s taken back to 1940 and the memories which are haunting him. Harry is eager to hear more about Jim’s life but Jim isn’t so keen to face the ghosts of his childhood and face the past.
As the story of The Birds That Do Not Sing progresses and the lives of Jim, his family and Harry unwind, the reader is drawn into their lives and it becomes clear that both Harry and Jim need to share the story of Jim’s childhood for both of them to move on with their lives in the here and now.
The book is beautifully written and you find yourself drawn into the story and lives of the various characters. You want to know what shaped Jim’s childhood and what causes his lack of sleep all these years later. Whilst Jim’s older brother stays at home, the son of their neighbour is off fighting in the war, and when he’s lost at sea, relations between the two households fall apart. Whilst Fred might not believe in the war and fighting, he spends his nights fighting the fires caused by the German bombers. He’s a hero but not in a way that’s acceptable to many.
Whilst Jim’s story comes to light we also learn that Harry is traumatised by an accident that caused the death of a young child. He needs Jim’s story as much as Jim needs to tell it.
I won’t ruin any more of the plot, but I can thoroughly recommend reading The Birds That Do Not Sing. It’s such a beautiful story and one that I’ve really enjoyed. I’ve included my Amazon Affiliate link below (I do earn from qualifying purchases) in case you fancy reading it yourselves.