Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Girl and the Sunbird: A Beautiful, Epic Story of Love, Loss and Hope by Rebecca Stonehill

Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: August 11, 2016

A haunting, heartbreaking and unforgettable novel of a woman married to a man she can never love, and drawn to another who will capture her heart forever... East Africa 1903:When eighteen year old Iris Johnson is forced to choose between marrying the frightful Lord Sidcup or a faceless stranger, Jeremy Lawrence, in a far-off land, she bravely decides on the latter. Accompanied by her chaperone, Miss Logan, Iris soon discovers a kindred spirit who shares her thirst for knowledge. As they journey from Cambridgeshire to East Africa, Iris’s eyes are opened to a world she never knew existed beyond the comforts of her family home. But when Iris meets Jeremy, she realizes in a heartbeat that they will never be compatible. He is cold and cruel, spending long periods of time on hunting expeditions and leaving Iris alone. Determined to make the best of her new life, Iris begins to adjust to her surroundings; the windswept plains of Nairobi, and the delightful sunbirds that visit her window every day. And when she meets Kamau, a school teacher, Iris finds her calling, assisting him to teach the local children English. Kamau is everything Jeremy is not. He is passionate, kind and he occupies Iris’s every thought. She must make a choice, but if she follows her heart, the price she must pay will be devastating. 

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I should have listened when a good friend of mine warned me off Rebecca Stonehill’s The Girl and the Sunbird: A Beautiful, Epic Story of Love, Loss and Hope, but I’m a stubborn mule and forged ahead anyway. Unfortunately for me, my friend was entirely correct in her assessment. The book didn’t suit my tastes and proved rather disappointing in my eyes.

The trouble started early when I noted the author’s tendency to tell more than she showed. It grated my nerves and I was frustrated that Stonehill seemed to expect me to simply accept Iris as she was described by her fellows. To be perfectly blunt, I found little to no evidence to substantiate the claims on Iris’ character. She didn’t seem real and I found it impossible to generate genuine empathy or interest in her or her experiences as the story moved on.

The same concept applies to the romantic and marital relationships Iris engages in. Emotions and feelings she was meant to harbor are firmly stated, but poorly illustrated and I think that went a long way in undermining the authenticity of each affair. I wanted to believe her sentiments sincere, but here again I felt force fed material that was largely unsupported.

I liked the general themes of the story, but the duration of the narrative and large gaps in the timeline made the underlying messages difficult to appreciate. Key plot points were wholly predictable and I couldn’t understand the multitude of narrators. Iris was the central figure of the story and I felt the rotating voices distracting and often irrelevant.

I can’t say The Girl and the Sunbird was a complete wash, there were moments I liked and East Africa proved an interesting setting, but the story wasn’t my cup of tea and I’m not sure I’ll be reading this author again.

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Is this your way of apologising, for trying to make up for the neglect, the rage and the pain you have inflicted upon me? And as the tears silently stream down my face, I think, It is too late for this. It is far, far too late.
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