Teeming with Puerile Detail: Mateship with Birds

Mateship with BirdsMateship with Birds by Carrie Tiffany

I adored Tiffany’s first novel Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living and have been curious about the mixed and unusual reviews Mateship with Birds has received so I decided it would bee a good novel to kick off my Aus Reading Month. If the unusual reviews are accurate then at least it is relatively short…

Harry is a farmer on the outskirts of an Australian country town in the 1950s. When he is not watching the family of Kookaburras on his property he is helping his neighbour Betty, a single mother. Can love blossom between these two outcasts?

First Impressions: From the first page this really felt like an ‘Australian novel’. Landscape, tick. Flora and Fauna, tick, tick. Country life, tick. Downtrodden and friendless characters. tick.

Highlights: I was really drawn to the glimpses of Betty’s earlier life and would have loved to read more about this character’s backstory. The novel obviously has a wealth of literary merit but unfortunately I just didn’t feel compelled to draw comparisons between Harry’s kookaburra diary and his relationship with Betty’s family.
(Can you get more Australian that that last sentence?)

If I was an editor: Dear me! Is all the detail about genitals necessary? It is the sort of detail a hormonal teenage boy would obsess over but it comes from Harry! He includes it in letters to Betty’s son Michael as a means of giving him advice (and advising himself, aha!) but I think this detail coming from a father figure is rather creepy and would certainly gross Michael out (to use some Aussie slang). Also, don’t get me started on Farmer Mues’ final storyline. Really? I understand that the setting is a sexually repressed rural town in the 1950s but I now wonder if I have missed something and it is actually a satire that has missed the mark.

Overall: Not the most enjoyable start to my Aus Reading Month but I did enjoy writing this review.

Mateship with Birds: 3 stars

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6 thoughts on “Teeming with Puerile Detail: Mateship with Birds

  1. I so laughed at your comment, “Can you get more Australian than that last sentence?”; in fact the whole review was v funny. I was trying to think of any Australian authors I’ve read, but apart from The Slap, and a couple by Peter Carey, and some Kathryn Fox (I think) crime fiction, I’ve not read any, I don’t think. I must rectify that…although perhaps not with Mateship With Birds…!

    • I love reading Australian fiction and I think I appreciate it more living abroad.

      A good place to start may be Courtney Collins’ The Burial, or even Gail Jones’ Sorry or Sixty Lights. (All reasonably short).

      Those are both more literary (particularly Jones), so as for crime: PM Newton writes an interesting sounding crime series I hope to read at some point for the Aus Womens Writers Challenge.
      As you also like psychological thrillers you’d probably love Honey Brown but only one of her books is available here, After the Darkness.

  2. I confess to picking this book up several times…and always putting it back down again.

    I work in an Indy bookshop & most of the customers who raved about this book were older – perhaps you had to live through the 50’s to appreciate how accurately Tiffany portrayed that world?

    • Thanks for this comment. I can imagine older readers liking this as, now you mention it, it, it does have an old fashioned feel to it.
      I have to admit, now that I’ve have fun writing the review and have engaged with others about the novel, it’s been an enjoyable experience on the whole. I suspect it would make a great book club choice as it’s hard not to form a strong opinion about it!

    • Interesting comment Brona. I was born in the 50s so this was not MY era as I was only a child but I’m close enough as it was certainly my Mum’s era … and I liked the book a lot. I didn’t like it as much, and therefore don’t remember it as clearly, as the glorious Everyman’s rules, but I did enjoy it.

  3. Pingback: Aus Women Writers Wrap Up | Orange Pekoe Reviews

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