Genre fiction with a position

Book Review by Frances Devlin-Glass9780007501878

Cecelia Ahern: Lyrebird, Harper Collins, London, 2016.

ISBN: 9780007501878

RRP: Au $33

Lyrebird is a very predictable romance about a girl who has lived a hermetic existence in Gougane Barra, hidden away by her grandmother and mother, for a set of complex reasons. She is catapulted into celebrity culture, via a talent show with claims to the international circuit,  by her unique gift for mimicry.

There’s a strange connection with Australia. The author requires one to accept the premise that human vocal equipment can perform as skilfully at imitating a wide range of sounds as an Australian Lyrebird. A detailed parallel is drawn chapter by chapter with Ambrose Pratt’s captivating naturalistic account of the bird’s characteristics. The main character is forced to do a flying visit to Australia as a hostage to her reality show’s production team. The best joke in the book concerns Melbourne’s cameramen and their dress codes.

I’m not normally a consumer of genre fiction, and I must say I found the novel utterly predictable, and inclined to spell out in detail what I already had understood, but it does have some insight to offer into the ugliness  and destructiveness of celebrity culture, the predatoriness of the paparazzi, and the vulnerability of those  who are innocent of its unrelenting rapaciousness.

While the writer intended me to focus on the romantic threesome at the heart of the narrative, I found my attention diverted by the relationship between the romantic hero and his rival brother, and the communal way in which the family help our hero resolve his conflicts and bring the reprobate to heel.

If you like romance, and a bit of nature-based magical thinking, this is pleasant holiday reading.

Frances Devlin-Glass

Frances has taught Literary Studies since 1970, and is a member of the Tinteán editorial collective.