Book 56: Mateship With Birds by Carrie Tiffany

You wouldn’t guess it from the title or the quaint and comforting watercolour cover but Carrie Tiffany’s slim 2012 novel is all about sex.

Sex between teens, sex between oldies, sex between animals, one case of sex between human and animal, and a whole lot of solo sex – seriously, everyone in this book is a chronic masturbator.

The sex is never sexy or romantic but rather explicitly anatomical – reflecting perhaps the matter-of-fact farming lives the main characters lead. These are people for whom manually inseminating a cow is no more exotic a chore than doing the dishes.

Set in 1950s rural Australia, the story revolves around single mother Betty and her aging neighbour Harry. They are two broken, lonely hearts quietly searching for some kind warmth in their cold, country lives. Betty’s children too are searching for something – a male role model, and in her son Michael’s case at least … sex.

But this is no love story. In fact, it’s not much of a story at all. While Tiffany is a fine writer and lays some solid foundations here, the novel ultimately doesn’t amount to much; the book’s short length just doesn’t give the characters enough time to grow and develop, which sort of left me scratching around for the point to it all.

The bird imagery gives the book a bit more texture but if it also holds some deeper meaning I wasn’t able to decipher it. In reality, I think it’s there to give the reader the impression that this book is more than it is: a half-baked novel that may have worked better as a short story.

Next: We’re under attack!!


Author: adamgartrell

Political journalist drowning in books

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