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Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson

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Adult Book of the Month

Tiny Sunbirds Far Away by Christie Watson
Published by Quercus in 2011

When their mother catches their father with another woman, twelve year-old Blessing and her fourteen-year-old brother, Ezikiel, are forced to leave their comfortable life in Lagos, to live with their mother’s family amid the poverty and violence of Warri village in the Niger Delta.

Life on the compound without running water or electricity and with the constant threat of attack from the Sibeye boy soldiers or the Kill and Go police is a shock for Blessing. Her mother works suspiciously late into the night to pay the children’s school fees. Her brother, once a promising student, seems to be falling increasingly under the influence of the Sibeye Boys. Her grandfather, a kind if misguided man who believes that Marmite is the cure for all illness, rules the compound and decides that the family should convert to Islam.

But Blessing’s grandmother, wise and practical, soon becomes a beloved mentor, teaching Blessing the ways of the midwife in rural Nigeria. As Warri comes to feel like home, Blessing becomes increasingly aware of the threats to its safety, both from its unshakable but dangerous traditions and the relentless carelessness of the modern world.

Watson’s story unfolds against the backdrop of the political situation of the region, the environmental and societal impact of Nigeria’s oil industry and the place of women in this traditional society but Watson never allows these difficult issues to interfere with the flow of her novel. Tiny Sunbirds, Far Away is a beautifully written story of one family’s attempt to survive a new life they could never have imagined.

‘Through the lens of young girl’s coming-of-age, this breakthrough novel views the politics of contemporary Nigeria, portraying the clash between traditional and modern as it affects one extended family.’ Booklist

‘Absorbing and passionate.’ The Guardian

‘Watson tells her story of culture clash without heavy messages, but the issues are sure to spark intense discussion’ Booklist

‘Her descriptions of character and place are beautifully observed. A promising new talent.’ The Independent

‘This book was our unanimous winner. Readability and literary merit go hand in hand in this vibrant gem of a novel. Funny, heartbreaking and utterly real: the characters lodge in your imagination long after you finish the book’ Costa judges

Tiny Sunbirds Far Away was the winner of the 2011 Costa First Novel Award. It is
Christie Watson’s first novel.