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A Cruel Bird Came to the Nest and Looked In Hardcover – 5 Sep 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing (5 Sept. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408821206
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408821206
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.4 x 20.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 658,182 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

Mills is a true original who has always ploughed his own - occasionally surreal - furrow in a series of comic gems. His latest, a quirky mix of fairy tale and political satire, offers clear parallels between the fictional world and our own. It's like Orwell's 1984 rewritten by Tolkien. **** (Mail on Sunday)

'Comedy's blackest, funniest and most astute practitioner' (Daily Telegraph)

Just when you think Magnus Mills couldn't possibly get any better, off he goes. This is a masterpiece. (Dan Rhodes, author of Timoleon Vieta Come Home)

A beautiful, singular book; funny and acutely observed. (Independent on Sunday)

One of our finest comic stylists on top form. (Financial Times)

Magnus Mills is Britain's most original writer, so forget everything you've been told about fiction - he has never even heard of the rules that apply to everyone else (The Times)

Book Description

'He has no literary precedent, and he also appears to have no imitators. He mines a seam that no one else touches on, every sentence in every book having a Magnus Mills ring to it that no other writer could produce' Independent

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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By D. Harris TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Sept. 2011
Format: Hardcover
The Empire - so-called - of Greater Fallowfields has dwindled, and now even the Emperor has gone missing. In his absence, a Cabinet of Ministers meets but with no business to carry out, they amuse themselves instead by rehearsing a play. There is a feeling of unease. There isn't even a real crown - that is missing too. An imitation one is to be used for the Coronation, because "nobody makes anything here anymore". The Ministers stumble through their days, encountering a range of customs that might be at home in Gormenghast (though they are much less gothic). Their stipendiary sixpences cannot be spent: the post takes days to deliver because the postmen return home mid morning for their breakfasts: the Imperial Orchestra is staffed by serfs who endlessly rehearse the National Anthem (with daring variations, though this is apparently treason).

As in other books, Mills achieves a pleasantly defocussed tone by being non specific about references to the real world. For example, composers are mentioned, and we may guess who they are, but their names are not given. The approaching winter festival is the "Twelve Day Feast". The play that the Ministers are rehearsing may be MacBeth. Above all, the "I" who narrates the book - Composer to the Imperial Court (though the actual composition is carried out by one of the serfs in the orchestra) and one of the Cabinet - is never named, nor is his (they are all male, and indeed I don't think there is a single female character in the book, save perhaps for the dancing girls who are mentioned a few times but never appear) background (or any of the others) given.
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Format: Paperback
Magnus Mills is back to his best here. I've read all his work and in my opinion it's the best since All Quiet on the Orient Express
It's a shame the novel isn't longer, I didn't want it to end!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've come to love Magnus Mills' novels more with each book, and by this one I was reading each sentence with delight. His humour is so quiet, and yet deadly. The books are a paean to British boringness and puzzlement, to the deep desire for a cushy life at work (and he does the workplace better than anyone) that is continually being threatened by the ogres of effiency. Here Britain, or Greater Fallowfields, is shrunk to a dream Greenwich, and the ineffectual political class is the subject of often painful satire and many shaggy-dog jokes. Pointlessness is Mills' forte. If the first half is almost Lewis Carroll in its blissful incoherence, the second half subtly introduces the shadow of war, the threat of dictatorship, the possibility of the destruction of a peaceful, tolerant way of life, where nothing matters very much, and nothing ever gets completed. So ultimately a serious book, but a very funny and lovable one. Also, I should add, very poetic.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Magnus Mills has a fantastic imagination otherwise there's no way in which he could
write the way he does. I can well imagine some people may think he's mad until they realize he's making a very valid point about human behaviour. His books may not be very long but they say much more than many books with 4-500 pages. A Cruel Bird is yet another example of the way in which he makes you think about things - where are we heading? I've read everything Magnus Mills has written and will continue to do so - if you've not read any of his books then do yourself a favour and start now, you wont regret it.
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By A. Ross TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 28 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback
I adore Mills' first two books (The Restraint of Beasts and All Quiet on the Orient Express) and now religiously pick up every new book he writes. I have to say that nothing he's written since (including this book) has hit me as hard as those first two, but he is such a distinctive writer that I'm always glad to have the chance to peek into his world. It's a world like ours, but with a fairy tale or fable style, stripped down and with minimal detail. Even the language is simplified, to the point where a child could quite easily read it. But behind it all is the message of a satirist -- although what that message precisely is, Mills is far too canny to explicitly state.

The story is narrated by an unnamed man who has just been appointed by royal decree to be the Principal Composer to the Imperial Court Greater Fallowfields, never mind that he has no training in music whatsoever. He joins the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Postmaster General, the Astronomer General, the Comptroller for the Admiralty, the Surveyor of Imperial Works, the Pellitory-of-the-Wall, and the Librarian-in-Chief, as the cabinet to the "His Exalted Highness, the Majestic Emperor of the Realms, Dominions, Colonies and Commonwealth of Greater Fallowfields." Unfortunately, his majesty is entirely absent, and in the absence of the emperor, the cabinet must keep Fallowfields running smoothly. However, in the days leading up to the "Twelve-Day Feast," it becomes evident that not all is well in the surrounding realms, as a group of traveling players bring ill rumors, and someone appears to be building a railroad headed straight for the imperial capital.
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