While I was reading Claire Allen’s The Blackbird, I could not help thinking about the gritty dramas of Ken Loach (or Shane Meadows if you want to be up to date). The book has the same socio-realist quality of those directors.
There are two timelines in the book. The first one takes place in 1941 and concerns a group of masons building Liverpool Cathedral. One of the workers falls off the building and his accident has repercussions. Mostly on the project supervisor, Will Jenner and his family, especially on his daughter Hope.
To complicate matters more,there is the blitz happening and so people’s lives and dwellings are being destroyed. Saying that Will’s insecurities and his actions are just as destructive, so in his own way he’s creating a mini blitz within his own family.
The second timeline takes place in 2014. Louise is being visited by her abusive ex partner, Benny, who is also the father of her son Jake. Despite the fact that she has a new partner, Carl and has moved into a new flat, Benny insists on staying with Louise using Jake as a pretext. At the same time we see Hope struggling with her husband, Robert, who has dementia.
Claire Allen’s writing is cinematic. I could picture every character, scene and action clearly. Although there is a lot of drama within the pages, The Blackbird never descends into soap opera theatrics. The book is also one filled with little twists and surprises, mainly due to the fact that Hope’s worldview differs a little bit with what actually happens in reality. Realism is the key of the book and it’s all done credibly.
Like all books from Hennigham press, The Blackbird is a work of art, filled with top quality print and gorgeous illustrations but also has a strong story to complement the high aesthetics. In every way The Blackbird was a pleasure to read.
Many thanks to Henningham Press for providing a copy of The Blackbird and allowing me to take part in their blog tour.