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  • Romance plus feathers

    Simon is an expert in the courtship behaviour of birds, sadly he has no idea about girls and his mate’s help is not always appreciated. Light-hearted humorous romance, with birds flying through. Simon is looking for a new girlfriend, and for him it is love at first sight when he meets Kim. Unfortunately things are not as straightforward as they appear to be in the lives of birds, and Simon’s ornithological expertise does not help him to spot the all too obvious hints that Kim is throwing him. Simon’s friend Phil shares many a pint with him, trying to help him see what Kim is suggesting. Just as things with Kim seem to be progressing, Simon travels to Sweden to study Pied Flycatcher birds, and things get a little more complicated. Simon is a great guy and an engaging character. His hopelessness at finding romance makes him very likeable, and there is quite a bit of suspense as the book continues and the reader wonders whether Simon will get his girl, or fly off course. 4*s from me, as I loved the character Simon, and enjoyed the add on of the bird studies to the romance theme. Simon comparing his love life to that of the birds is amusing and poignant, and strikingly similar in places. A lovely, gently humorous book, with plenty of human and bird romance.

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  • A very entertaining read

    4.5★s “Even if I do meet a female who elicits a more profound and sustained love response, she might not feel that way about me. After all, they don’t make a sexy behavioural ecologist calendar, do they? Society has decided, for whatever reason, that footballers and firemen are more attractive.” Odd Bird is the first novel by British author, Lee Farnsworth. Dr Simon Selwood, behavioural ecologist with a special interest in birds at Empirical University in London, is frustrated. He’s thirty-four, and his two-year pair bond with Claire has dissolved. Will he ever achieve a lasting pair-bond? His best friend, Phil makes suggestions that are either distasteful to Simon, or unsuccessful: online dating or speed dating. Often proffering an unhelpful commentary when meeting new women is Simon’s paracingulate cortex, that region of his brain making flash judgements of beauty, the bit he dubs his PC, and whose remarks frequently don’t conform to the commonly accepted definition of PC. His Uni colleague Pippa resolves to reignite Simon’s social life, but is less than pleased when he fixates on beautiful PR person, Kim McFale: “She enjoys the power she has over men a little too much, in my opinion… You are a nice guy, Simon – a lovely guy but lovely has never floated Kim’s boat, and it doesn’t bring out the best in her either. She would break your gorgeous heart.” Is Pippa right? But all Simon sees is: “Her hair was long and lustrous, indicating that not only was she currently in good health, but also that she had been in good health for several years. Her skin was pale and her features small, suggesting that a high concentration of oestrogen and just the tiniest trace of testosterone were circulating in her immaculate bloodstream. Brown irises floated in still seas of unblemished white sclera. Best of all, she was highly symmetrical; I reminded myself that I had always wanted to form a pair-bond with a highly symmetrical female.” It seems a moot point anyway, as Kim becomes unavailable. Why then, some months after her relationship with Michael has been formalised, is she flirting with Simon? He’s sure this is not something pair-bonded females do, but his three-month trip to Sweden on a long-awaited pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca) study precludes further exploration of the situation. And surely he’s out of her league? But Simon isn’t too absorbed in his work and his fellow researchers to respond to text messages… Initially, the plot seems a little predictable, but soon enough, it takes turns that may surprise. Even if we all know who Simon ought to forge that elusive pair-bond with, the story takes a detour into unexpected territory via radio interviews, a book and reality TV shows all examining infidelity and what bird behaviour might predict for humans. Farnsworth’s protagonist is quirky but endearing enough that the reader will be cheering him on. Simon’s observation “Genuine interest in my work is about as common as a Siberian rubythroat (Luscinia calliope) and so I checked her expression again, just to be sure” partly illustrates of the following… A degree of social ineptitude, obliviousness to human behavioural cues and literal interpretations, reveal that Simon is clearly the cousin of Don Tillman (The Rosie Project, Graeme Simsion); his ornithological preoccupation marks him as a close relative of Hattie Bloom (The Great Escape From Woodlands Nursing Home, Joanna Nell). Farnsworth’s support cast also appeals: despite the fact that Phil is quite obnoxious at times, he proves himself a true friend to Simon, while Pippa’s heart is plainly in the right place. There’s plenty of humour in this charming debut novel, although it doesn’t fail to tug at the heartstrings occasionally. A very entertaining read. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Duckworth Books – Farrago.

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