A Little Bird Told Me by Marianne Holmes tells the story of Robyn, a young girl facing difficult circumstances in the scorching Summer of 1976.
The book is set in two times 1988 (the present) and flashes back to the pivotal Summer of 1976. Robyn is keen to discover the truth of the mystery that happened in 1976 but still affects her and her brother Kit to this day. She and Kit move back into their old family home and being back in their home town stirs up lots of memories.
Who is the mysterious figure of the man in the cowboy hat who turns up at the swimming pool? This mystery element is covered well and revealed in snapshots over time when the book flashes back to 1976.
What Holme’s does well is to capture Robyn’s voice as a child, particularly when she is witnessing situations between adults that she may not completely comprehend. This fragmented memory and confusion is described particularly well and extends the readers sympathy towards Robyn. Robyn’s conflicted feelings of going back to her home town after many years away, is especially well described and we see this in her interactions with the people from her past such as Neil and Carol.
The novel as a whole, covers serious issues such as domestic violence, bullying and complex family dynamics. The crux of the book is “We’re all about secrets in this family.” The damage that secrets and half-truths can do to a family is the important issue here. A Little Bird Told Me raises the issue about openness and transparency with all the family members even when dealing with difficult subjects such as bullying and domestic violence. The reason that these behaviours are allowed to flourish are due to the veil of secrecy around them. It is shocking to think that domestic violence was seen as a family matter and not a criminal concern historically. It is only fairly recently that this opinion has changed. This book, although fiction strongly highlights this important social issue in bringing awareness to the subject.
This is Holme’s debut novel and is bound not to be her last as she writes beautifully written prose and constructs very realistic characters. The book also contains a wonderful note from the Publishers at the beginning which states that Holmes submitted her book to them as a last try before she put the manuscript away again, but they were so glad that she didn’t. This is a great salve to writer’s like ourselves who can try to not give up hope. I personally found this very encouraging.
Overall, A Little Bird Told Me is an important book that I recommend that you read and I look forward to reading more of Marianne Holmes’ work in the future.