Place of Many Birds

Fiction - Anthology
88 Pages
Reviewed on 01/19/2015
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Author Biography

Jan Merry is a fiction and feature writer, published throughout Australia and the United Kingdom. Her stories explore the connections between art, history and literature while her feature writing covers everything from social issues to travel.
Jan was born in Melbourne, Australia, where she lectured in American and Australian literature. She has lived in Scandinavia, Singapore, Hong Kong, South Africa and now London. Jan Merry has also been published as a photographer.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Carine Engelbrecht for Readers' Favorite

Place of Many Birds by Jan Merry consists of five self-contained stories, but there are various clues and hints of possible connections. Two stories, Killing Time and Spirit of Activity, feature a cyclist, who could be the same person and might even be an older version of one of the characters in the title story. Place of Many Birds is a longer novella that takes us on a journey with Earle, his English-born mother and his older brother. Ostensibly, they are traveling from the little town of Cariboo to the city of Melbourne, but the story sidetracks down Memory Lane, covering the territory of Earle's memories of the Cariboo that lies behind them and the many stories his mother tells of the Yorkshire of her youth, as well as other dusty little towns that lie behind them. This multi-layered tale is perhaps the best developed story of the collection. In The Breakaway, a group of 19th-century agricultural students plan an outdoor excursion with unforeseen consequences. Before Winter Comes tells of the impact of a neighborly gift to a single-parent family.

Each of the stories shares a very real sense of place and an authentic, well drawn viewpoint character with a keen sense of observation as the voice to carry the unfolding. These are tales that make you feel right at home within their imaginary landscape. They recall events of a bygone era, but in such vivid detail that they manage to bring those memories back to life. They share the flavor and texture of living in Australia during the first half of the 20th century. In a way, the experience of reading A Place of Many Birds by Jan Merry is not unlike paging through a leather-bound scrapbook album full of sepia tinted portraits and other keepsakes capturing yesterday's joys, sorrows and missed opportunities.

Ronald W Sharp

'Place of Many Birds' by Jan Merry is an elegantly-crafted collection of short stories. Poetic and vivid descriptions of the Australian landscape create a sense of our unique outback: a place of which I am quite unfamiliar. But clearly, Ms Merry exhibits both superb knowledge of the countryside, and quite remarkable powers of painting with words. Here is one example: 'Firelight flickers on the smooth trunks and writing branches illuminating the ghostly whiteness of the trees in the moonlight' (from The Break Away).
The title story, 'Place of Many Birds', is quite exquisite, and is without doubt a five-star piece.
This collection will appeal to those who enjoy reading about the atmosphere of the outback, and the lives of. those who lived in earlier days