I recently attended the book launch of a new novel entitled 'The Bird Keeper' by Issy Festing which was held at The Royal College of Medicine. I had pre-ordered the book and was raring to read it - in fact I devoured the whole thing in a few days.
It's about a young Indian man called Satchin Rai who goes against his family's expectations of continuing his father's tea emporium and follows his heart to work at a bird sanctuary instead. Added to this are his burgeoning homosexual feelings, which are awakened by the arrival of charismatic Englishman Peter Madson. The novel follows Satchin as he tries to work out which paths he should follow or give up. I found it fascinating to watch Satchin's inner struggle as he wrestled with society's expectations and his own desires. I also loved the description of the bird sanctuary- although I have never been anywhere like it, I feel as though I have.
The author has really got into the mind of the male characters, which I would imagine is difficult being a woman, and has captured the essence of their personalities throughout the novel, even in the brevity of her descriptions. There is a lovely scene where Satchin's masculine preferences are juxtaposed against his mother's endless fussing and frilly doilies! Something about the book reminded me of the film 'A Single man' which I watched earlier this year, and also of 'Goodbye to Berlin' (which was made into the film 'Cabaret') both by Christopher Isherwood. As I read this book, I could picture every scene as if it were on film. I love Merchant Ivory films and have had the box set of 'Merchant Ivory In India' on my wish list for a while - so this book was perfect for me.
Have a look at The Book Guild's photos here