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. A bird falls, a father dies, a child is born. Featherhood is the story of a love affair between a man and a bird. It is also a memoir about childhood and parenthood, captivity and freedom, grief and love.
... a sincere and searing tale of loss, addictive despair, the redemptive power of love, the natural world and a shit-dropping, feather-moulting talking magpie ... This will undoubtedly be held up alongside H Is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald’s memoir that saw her tame her grief and a bird of prey in her living room. But Featherland is an equal, if not better, work of magpie investigation that ranks among the best modern coming-of-age memoirs.
... engrossing ... alternately touching and humorous ... Although the book deftly interweaves seemingly disparate threads, the narrative itself begins straightforwardly enough ... anyone who has ever cared for a living creature will find much to identify with in Gilmour’s affectionate, sometimes exasperated account of the magpie who comes to be called Benzene ... Gilmour becomes fond of Benzene, whose flights fill his protector with mixed emotions ... Such sentiments make the author’s parallel story all the more powerful: Diving deep into his past, Gilmour recounts the painful absence of his father ... At once droll and wise, this is an unforgettable memoir.
... a magical book of exhilarating complexity, the story of blood, bird shit, tears and hope ... Featherhood is a book that swoops and soars with a luminosity of language worn with the lightness of a gossamer wing, a book filled with scenes of semi-hallucinogenic beauty in which an arrival in a forest carpeted with ‘sweetly scented chamomile’ causes footsteps to ‘bruise aroma from the leaves’ and where a magician’s ‘near-invisible spider-silk thread charms notes from thin air’. Written with heart-stopping honesty, this is a book of unspooling secrets which shock, challenge and make you laugh aloud; one in which a bird’s bluebottle-and-beetle birthday cake is at once ‘strangely beautiful and stomach churningly foul’, and where even the gory, moving immediacy of death demonstrates the omnipresent fight for survival ... Featherhood challenges our perception of creatures of the wild, celebrates the certainties of romantic commitment and prompts a profound reconsidering of the nature of patriarchal love.