Mateship With Birds by Carrie Tiffany

Set in the 1950’s, Carrie Tiffany’s remarkable second novel, Mateship With Birds gently lulls the reader into a false sense of security with the gentle portrayal of Harry, a lonely farmer. His daily observations of the rhythm of the land, his contemplative study of a family of kookaburras that sing a nightly concert in a nearby tree, and his love for his unlikely farm dog, an ungainly whippet, are a delight. After experiencing the squelch of the mud as Harry milks his beloved cows, so quietly you are drawn into beautifully drawn this study of the land, that you get a quite a shock when Carrie Tiffany turns sharp eye to the darker edges of rural life.  Living across the paddocks is  Betty,  a single mother who has escaped city life and it’s claustrophobic bonds for a simpler life with her two young children. Mue, another farmer lives down the lane. With promises of showing Betty’s daughter Hazel a Shetland pony, he exposes himself.  Instead of being horrified, all you sense is Hazel’s disappointment that the promise of a real Shetland pony will never materialise.  While shocking, Carrie Tiffany makes no judgment and little Hazel continues on, not even missing the school bus. This novel is peppered with many such remarkably drawn moments and you sense through the heat and the dust, a clarity of vision, a truthfulness and a mental toughness in Carrie Tiffany’s writing that is at turns refreshing and quietly unsettling, but overwhelmingly truly remarkable.

Carrie Tiffany’s debut novel, Everyman’s Rules for Scientific Living was shortlisted from the Australian Miles Franklin Award and the international Orange Prize for Fiction. She won the 2006 Western Australian Premier's Award for Fiction.

Review by Nicole Maher@ Great Escape Books