Book Review: as stars fall by Christie Nieman

Thursday, June 19, 2014
I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: as stars fall
Author: Christie Nieman
Publication Date: Due out July 1st 2014

Synopsis: "The fire was fast and hot ... only days after it went through, there were absolutely no birds left. I should have seen it as an omen, the birds all leaving like that.
Robin is a self-confessed bird-nerd from the country, living in the city.
On the first day at her new school, she meets Delia. Delia is freaky and definitely not good for Robin's image.
Seth, Delia's brother, has given up school to prowl the city streets. He is angry at everything, especially the fire that killed his mother.
When a rare and endangered bird turns up in the city parklands, the lives of Robin, Seth and Delia become fatefully and dangerously intertwined..."

My thoughts: This book turned up suddenly on my doorstep while I was finishing my final assignment of semester one. I hadn't requested it, but was happy to see such a beautiful cover and promised myself that I would give it a go as soon as my semester was over. I actually can't recall if I kept my promise, but I will say this - thank you so much to the little angel over at Pan Macmillan that sent this my way.

There is so much that I loved in this book. The way each character spoke to and about themselves was different - how the interacted with each other, and how the interacted with grief. Each voice was really distinct and I loved that, given that I've read my fair share of books where the characters all sound the same.
Robin's character is fiery, but confused. She doesn't know what to do now she's in the city and just wants to find a way - any way - back to her former, comfortable life. 
Both Seth and Delia are trying to avoid their grief and anger over their mother's death - they are each just trying to find a way through, and you feel that desperation within them as you read. The emotions are so raw and real that I felt a lot of what these characters felt as things went along. I felt the pain and the confusion, but I also felt the hope for a better way. This is masterful writing.

Another element I adored was introducing the Australian bird life into the character's lives - showing how one creature can bind so many people together and change the way they think. The introduction of the bird also allowed Nieman to explore a little magical realism, which just seemed to fit so seamlessly into the story line.

To begin with, I worried that this story would be too slow for me - it was dealing with a lot of subject matter and seemed to be trying to cram so much into the one story, which is just over 300 pages: quite a feat of determination on the author's part. But somehow it really worked. Everything binds together in such a beautiful way that I had the experience of wanting to begin the book again as soon as I had finished it - just to see if I had missed anything while reading; just to be back in that world. And, the thing is, Christie Nieman managed to get me interested in Australian birds again, and inspired me to look up recordings of the call of the bird in this book. That's no mean feat and shows how passionate she was about her work on this book.

For some people, I fear that this book may come across as a bit stilted and slow at times, but that's okay. I think this book will really reach people that want and need to read it. I highly recommend it, anyway!
(Just as a side note: I have not read a lot of Australian fiction - that is, fiction set in Australia. I've read plenty of fiction by Australian authors. - I actually have come to feel a bit of fear/resentment towards a lot of Australiana and it often makes me switch off immediately. But this book worked its way through and I definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to try Australian fiction again. It is beautiful.)

I received a copy of this book for review from Pan Macmillan.

You would like this book if: you like beautifully written characters; you haven't read much Australian fiction and would like to give some a go.

Rating: 10/10

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