Featherhood: Book summary and reviews of Featherhood by Charlie Gilmour

Featherhood

A Memoir of Two Fathers and a Magpie

by Charlie Gilmour

Featherhood by Charlie Gilmour X
Featherhood by Charlie Gilmour
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Book Summary

H is for Hawk meets The Duke of Deception in this wry, moving story of a young man who, as his estranged father is dying, saves a baby magpie only to find that caring for the mischievous bird has, in fact, saved him.

One spring day, a baby magpie falls out of its nest and into Charlie Gilmour's hands. Magpies, he soon discovers, are as clever and mischievous as monkeys. They are also notorious thieves, and this one quickly steals his heart. By the time the creature develops shiny black feathers that inspire the name Benzene, Charlie and the bird have forged an unbreakable bond.

While caring for Benzene, Charlie comes across a poem written by his biological father, an eccentric British poet named Heathcote Williams who vanished when Charlie was six months old. As he grapples with Heathcote's abandonment, Charlie is drawn to the poem, in which Heathcote describes how an impish young jackdaw—like magpies, also a member of the crow family—fell from its nest and captured his affection. Over time, Benzene helps Charlie unravel his fears about repeating the past—and embrace the role of father himself.

A bird falls, a father dies, a child is born. Featherhood is the unforgettable story of a love affair between a man and a bird. It is also a beautiful and affecting memoir about childhood and parenthood, captivity and freedom, grief and love.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"In a captivating memoir, Gilmour recounts his frustrating search for his father, Heathcote Williams, who abruptly disappeared when he was 6 months old...Though not quite on that level, this one will fit nicely on the shelf next to H Is for Hawk. A sensitive, often moving chronicle of transformation for bird and man." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Born to write, Gilmour interweaves intimate observations of magpie behavior with bird science; an astonishing family history; psychological struggles...His prose is as darkly iridescent as the magpie's feathers, his wit is winged, and he is as tenacious in his gathering of memories and facts as the magpie is with food and objects. A resplendent interspecies memoir of nature, nurture, revelation, and love." - Booklist (starred review)

"[M]oving...The author's introspection is rewarding without becoming maudlin, and his poetic take on the complexities of father/son relationships resonates. This spirited outing hits all the right buttons for memoir lovers." - Publishers Weekly

"A profound exploration of grief, fragmented families, nature versus nurture and whether we are doomed to repeat the sins of our fathers. But it is also a gladdening celebration of what it is to nurture and bring forth new life." - Sunday Express (UK)

"Gilmour's language is as precise as his gaze is forensic. He is something of a magician himself, conjuring whole vivid personalities with a few deft strokes of his pen." - Daily Mail (UK)

"This will undoubtedly be held up alongside H is for Hawk...[A] work of magpie investigation that ranks among the best modern coming-of-age memoirs." - Sunday Times (UK)

"A moving account of [Gilmour's] attempts to make sense of his deeply complicated father while assessing his own suitability for fatherhood, wrestling with the question of nature versus nurture, all while caring for a magpie." - The Times (UK)

"Featherhood is one of the best books I've ever read. I urge you to seek it out, buy it, and be enchanted. It's incredibly moving and I loved every single page." - Elton John

"Wonderful – I can't recommend it too highly." - Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk

"Featherhood is an astonishing achievement: a book about fathers and their children, about magicians and birds, about the hurt we pass on from generation to generation, and the ways we can try to heal. It's a journey that we take with a magpie, across the decades of Charlie's life, and the life of his biological father. It's the best piece of nature writing since H is for Hawk, and the most powerful work of biography I have read in years. It announces Charlie Gilmour as a major new writing talent, as he weaves words like a poet and offers us continual small treasures like a magpie." - Neil Gaiman

This information about Featherhood shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

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Author Information

Charlie Gilmour

Charlie Gilmour lives in South London with his wife and daughter.

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