Author: Cecelia Ahern
Pages: 416; Price: Rs 350
Lyrebird- ‘She will change your life forever’ greets you the moment you pick up the book. The cover is designed beautifully by Heike Schüssler and it foretells what is about to be experienced by the reader in the first few pages ahead.
Reading Cecelia’s tales are like free falling. You never know where you will land up. The plot just keeps you guessing. Often, the landing is in a lovely state of mind that leaves one spellbound, with a bittersweet feeling. That was the case with many of her previous books which I read over a period of time right from my school days. Be it P.S.I love You, Where Rainbows End, The Year I Met You or The Book of Tomorrow, they all had something to offer that remained with the reader long after the storytelling ended. Cecelia has that rare power of great storytelling that remains to be experienced by fans of fiction.
Coming to Lyrebird, it is divided into four parts. Each part is introduced with Ambrose Pratts’ lines from The Lore of the Lyrebird and as probably desired by the author, it does create an air of enthusiasm and a surprise element blooms in the reader’s mind.
The first part is free falling at its best. The Toolin Twins, an award-winning documentary about 77-year old Joe and Tom Toolin, who lived and worked together all their lives in an isolated part of Cork countryside, west of Macroom, with no romantic relationships and nothing but a radio to keep them entertained, reflected their lives as captured by Bo (Producer, Director), Solomon (Sound) and Rachel (Camera) in their documentary.
They spot Laura when the documentary makers arrive for Tom’s funeral. Now, Laura or Lyrebird as she is re-christened later, is mysterious – a beautiful being in the middle of the forest, spotted by Solomon who is sensitive to sounds. Much like the lyrebird (Menura superba) known for its superb ability to mimic natural and artificial sounds, Laura processes the sounds she hears around her by imitating them with an innate talent that awaits to be presented to the world (or does it?), away from the forests that have been home for her for a long time.
No doubt that this talent and its depiction by Cecelia will grip the reader, with Laura not just imitating the sounds in a forest but even the sound of the coffee-making machine and almost anything and everything under the sun that makes a sound. However, as the story progresses, it is caught in the cobweb of a run-of-the-mill storyline. Of how a talent is unearthed from a remote corner of the world, how it travels to Dublin thanks to a talent show where it catches the audience by surprise. The story becomes predictable from there. The sudden fame, compliments, fan-following – of course spiced with sounds that Cecelia deftly incorporates so that the reader can experience it through someone who minutely listens – followed by a step-gone-wrong and the brickbats that can render a person mute to a point of emptiness.
This is Lyrebird’s journey from a remote forest where she remained elusive from the outside world. There were also minor discrepancies that I observed. She is shown to have been devoid of human interactions except from three or four people at the most. As her life changes, she seems to have got all her acts right (which she owes to the books she read which were her window to the world). However, it is beyond my perception how a woman can suddenly become society’s charm in a matter of days after spending a large part of life away from people’s glances, being a mystery. Won’t she have issues facing world that is beyond noisy? Also, she is supposed to have lost her bags at one point in the tale. However, later someone is said to be helping her with the bags.
Her family’s secret that keeps unfurling in the background did prove to be interesting initially, but when it was discovered, it doused the build-up in a lousy manner.
Cecelia’s storytelling skill keeps the reader engrossed till the very end in spite of the plot seeming to fall apart as the pages are turned. What is worth appreciation, however, is the mesmerising inculcation of sounds in printed words that mere mortals usually do not hear or become so used to it that they stop hearing them. And when Lyrebird does show them what they are missing, tears follow – tears of joy, of sadness, of nostalgia. It’s much like taking the raw beauty of nature for granted in our willingness to ‘modernise’ ourselves and the society we live in only to be yanked by an experience that suddenly springs us into refurbishing our perceptions and beliefs completely.
It conspires in a subtle way to make the reader slow down and be suddenly more sensitive towards sounds. That ‘silence speaks’, suddenly makes more sense.
There could have been so much going right for Lyrebird. And despite that, it lacks in leaving a great aftertaste.