Birdseye by Maire Fisher is part family drama, part coming of age story. Amelia the protagonist, aka Bird, is the youngest child in large family that lives in a small seaside town close to Cape Town. They live in a large mansion, called Marchbanks, which is owned by their grandmother. The somewhat happy, ordinary family spends their family time together listening to their parents, Orville and Annie, telling the story of when they met and fell in love.
Although we get to know the characters early on in the book, the grandmother remains an enigma for most of half the novel. “Ma Bess” who rules the household from the second floor where she lives. A cold person in every sense of the word, who shows no affection towards her child or grandchildren and despises her son in law.
Amelia adores her twin brothers, Oliver and Oscar, and when the twins go missing their family life, although not ideal, is shaken with trauma. Everyone in the family deals with the loss in their own way, except of course Ma Bess – she believe that the twins got what they deserve. Really?
Amelia on the other hand, despite years having passed, still believes that her brothers are still alive. In fact, for years she has kept them alive, in her mind, by writing to them. When new evidence comes to light, Bird makes it her mission to find out the truth.
Amelia is truly a likeable character, in fact the entire family are. Everyone has their place in the book and adds dimension and insight into a family that is struggling to deal with loss and acceptance. However, I’m most definitely excluding the grandmother from my statement about the entire family being likeable. Ma Bess is impossible to like and even harder to understand. How is it that there can be so much hatred in one person? Ma Bess and the secrets behind her psychotic behavior adds a certain “darkness” to the novel and when they come to light, brings a satisfying end to the novel.
The investigation on the twins’ disappearance plays a role in the novel, of course, but as I’ve said in the beginning it’s mostly a family drama/coming of age story. A fast paced story about family, loss, secrets and tragedy that is worth a read.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Randomhouse SA, for review consideration