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Customer Review

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful and unforgettable, harrowing yet uplifting., 21 April 2010
This review is from: The Go-Away Bird (Paperback)
1994 - London: Ashley Bolt lives alone in a seedy part of London, deals drugs and cuts himself, he harms himself. Ashley teaches singing.
Rwanda - Clementine Habimama witnesses the genocide, Hutu's are 'cutting' Tutsi's with machetes, harming their country, harming themselves, changing themselves forever. Clementine loves to sing.

I admit that the subject matter does not make it an easy read, genocide and self-harming are both emotive subjects that most peple try to avoid thinking about. How can friends and neighbours suddenly become enemies and kill each other? How can someone frequently slice themselves with a knife? Yes, it is harrowing at times but I was carried along by the narrative and I really did care about the fate of Ashley (in spite of his defects I found him easy to warm to), and Clementine (you would have to be really heartless not to want to give her a hug). It made me think how fortunate I am to have been born in the UK and to have had a happy childhood, free from abuse - and I defy anyone reading this novel not think in this way.

The first half allows the reader into the lives of the dual narrators before they meet. How, for Clementine the beauty and peace of her country is destroyed and turned into a blood bath. Ashley's story describes how and why he self harms, his life London with a small group of friends including Lola, a transvestite singing pupil and Levi a young 'thug'. Clementine's early childhood was filled with love, Ashley's with abuse. The narratives connect, sometimes in subtle ways others more obvious and this is worth looking out for.

Then they meet through the shared love of singing and their lives change forever as their friendship grows.

If you have enjoyed books like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Mr Pip, The Other Hand, Brixton Beach or The Kite Runner then please try this one. I am glad that I have and it is one of those books that I know I will never forget. I predict prize nominations for this one.
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Location: UK

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