This book was one of my "kindle finds". Since purchasing my kindle, I often look for books that are cheap but have a 4-5 star review. I mainly do this as I want to widen my horizons when it comes to reading and this method usually throws up a few books that I would never have come across otherwise.
When I read the synopsis for China Bird I was intrigued...this isn't my usual genre of fiction but after reading a couple of raving reviews I thought I would give it a bash.
China Bird is a novel by Bryony Doran that won the Hookline Novel Competition in 2009. It was based on a mother and son she seen whilst in a cafe who became Rachel and Edward in her imagination. As far as I am aware, this is the only published novel by Bryony Doran but I hope that there are more to come as it really is something unique and special.
China Bird follows four people as their lives intertwine in more ways than expected. It is based around a young art student, Angela, who asks a distant family friend to model for her; Edward. The real twist to this novel though is that Edward is not conventionally beautiful. He is an older man with a prominent hunch in his spine and difficulty with movement. The name of the novel actually comes from Edward's hunch as Angela compares it to the China Bird that is placed in the middle of a pie dish. This disability has has resulted in Edward becoming an isolated and solitary figure who is going through the motions of life without really embracing it.
Angela first sees Edward at the funeral of Claudette; a friend of her late grandmothers who instilled the love of art into Angela. Edward is at the funeral with his mother Rachel who is a distant relative of Claudette's. Rachel is probably my favourite character within this book as there is a lot of depth to her personality and her story. She is an elderly woman who is rude and ignorant but the life she has lead is full of twists and turns and she is a very developed character.
Once Edward agrees to model for Angela, we are taken through a journey of love, passion and need. The Saturday sessions when he models for her become a pivotal part of the novel and show an unusual and intriguing relationship building between the two characters. It shows the change in their perceptions and feelings as they get to know each other very well (partly due to Edward posing nude for Angela) and how this affects their lives outside the studio.
As I read China Bird, I couldn't work out whether I actually liked it or not, but I always wanted to read further. It is an unconventional story exploring an unlikely friendship, and some parts of it did shock me. However I persevered and on finishing it I realised that it was provocative and unique and captured me more than a book had in a long time. I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who likes to read something that is slightly outside the realms of conventional.