02/05/2006

The Birdcage

This is one of the more recent novels by Marcia Willett, and I very much enjoyed it. It's about Lizzie, a forty-something actress who's recently suffered a major shake-up in her life, and discovers some clues to her rather unusual past. She makes a decision to try and find an old friend - and makes some new and wonderful friendships along the way.

In one or two of this author's earlier books, I felt that she made too much use of lengthy flashbacks in the pluperfect tense, most of which weren't necessary and distracted from the flow of the narrative. But in this one, the flashbacks work very well, using - a little bizarrely - the present tense when anyone is dreaming or thinking about the past. However this gives an immediacy to the memories, and makes them fit in very well with the overall story.

The novel is character-driven, and some of the characters really do seem very realistic and warm. There are quite a few in the cast, but they're introduced in such a way - and with such distinct names and personalities - that I never found myself confused as to who was being referred to.

I wasn't so gripped that I couldn't put it down, which is just as well since the book is about 550 pages long, but I still found myself reading several chapters each evening rather than the one or two I had intended. A delightful book overall, without an obvious or trite ending, and one I look forward already to re-reading in a few years.

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