There are certain books that, when you come to the end of them, you have no idea what you are supposed to read next. A Thousand Paper Birds by Tor Udall is such a book. On the morning I finished it, I sat in bed in a state of mesmerised shock because this is an utterly beautiful story & after two days, I still have no idea what to pick next.
This book is elegant, eloquent & elegiac; profound, breathtaking, filled with the kind of prose that must surely have begun life in the author’s head as a poem. It shines with poetic moments & they stun, softly, like tiny birds beating against your rib-cage.
It’s a deceptively simple tale, one of love, loss & grief. Poor Jonah, lost without his dead wife Audrey, picks at your heart. Harry – an integral part of Kew Gardens, where the story is set – won me over from the beginning. Chloe & her paper skills, her delicate strength. Audrey with her secret… Everyone in this book is made from a version of love & each one is different: sweet, bittersweet, kind, capricious & as fragile as a paper bird on a lily pond.
Perhaps it’s because I write on the edges of magical realism that I found much in this book to enchant me. It’s certainly because I love rain & snow & write about them both, that I found this passage captivating.
My favourite character is ten-year-old Milly, who is explaining rain to Jonah:
‘It rains. Then the puddles evaporate and become clouds again. Round and round it goes. It got me thinking how nice it must be for a raindrop to become a snow-flake. For months you’re just rain and everyone hates you. But then one winter the weather gets chilly and you become a snowflake with its own shape and pattern. And you’re the only one of your kind of snowflake and everyone loves you. I reckon snow must be God’s gift to the raindrop.’
A Thousand Paper Birds is my book of the year.