This novel takes genocide and self-harm as its main topics - and you can bet that that's not an easy combination for any novelist - but Warren FitzGerald has done a brilliant job of making it come together in a way that is funny and thought-provoking as well as harrowing. This novel isn't the easiest of reading in some ways, as you might guess from the subject matter, but it is engaging and a good read.
The Go-Away Bird is set in 1994 and is narrated by two people - Ashley Bolt, a music teacher living alone and self-harming regularly, and Clementine Habimama, who lives in a flat above and has just come from Rwanda where she witnessed genocide and lost her family. The first half of the novel introduces us to each of the narrators separately. The second half of the novel is about what happens when they meet. The scale of Ashley's problems (living in a semi-squalid flat, his disfunctional family and unhappy childhood memories, and his feeling of failure) pales in comparison to the troubles of the small child he discovers sobbing in the stairwell. Yet, in their odd ways, both learn from the others.
I've seen this novel compared to Mister Pip by Loyd Jones, and I can see how there are some similarities. I found The Go-Away Bird fascinating. I didn't think that all of it was brilliantly written, but it's really unique in how delicately and subtly it deals with such an incredibly difficult and emotive topic like genocide. A tough, special read.