Mateship with Birds - Book of the Month
by Carrie Tiffany
It’s 1953 and Harry and Betty are neighbours in a far flung corner of the Australian bush. Widower Harry lives alone tending for his dairy herd, his “girls”, with beautiful names like Linga Longa, Wattle Flower, Banyule Tiddlewinks, Wee Joyce. While going about his business Harry likes to watch a rowdy family of kookaburras that roost on his land and writes notes detailing their touching, eccentric behaviour. He also occasionally watches Betty who swings her ample hips not unlike Harry’s girls do as they cross the yard for milking.
Betty is a nurse. She lives with her two children Michael and Little Hazel. The children have different fathers they’ve never known and the whole family look to Harry for company, advice and support, all of which he gives unconditionally. And meanwhile Betty dreams of something more.
When Michael starts to become interested in girls and sex Harry takes it upon himself to educate the boy by writing letters to him in a combination of rather graphic detail and sheer poetry. When Betty discovers these letters she is not best pleased.
I loved this quiet, open and touching novel about love, sex and longing in midlife and I particularly loved Harry’s beautiful writing about the kookaburra family - so he can have the last word:
The day starts in their throats.
Dad first, then Mum,
Tiny and Club-Toe.
The four of them in the red gum
by the dairy.
As regular as clockwork
they make their request for air
Published by Picador - 208pp.
Read our interview with Carrie Tiffany.