Odd Bird by Lee Farnsworth – Simon discovers that human behaviour is not always the same as the birds’..

Lee Farnsworth on Writing 'Odd Bird' - Farrago Books
Odd Bird by Lee Farnsworth
Being an expert on the mating behaviour of birds does not mean that human behaviour is any easier to understand; in the case of Dr Simon Selwood it makes it slightly more difficult, especially when assessing potential “pair bonds” with women. An academic who frequently processes information about life in a different way is the subject of a funny novel about the largely hapless Simon who is obsessed with the behaviour of birds, and fortunately is known and respected for it. He is also the despair of his highly amusing and noisily clever friend Phil, who tries to help him with life in general and relationships in particular in inventive and unusual ways. Featuring such set pieces as a dinner party set up to matchmake couples and a blues festival, this very funny book is narrated by Simon as he tries to steer his way between women and a ground breaking study of pied flycatchers, a celebrity book tour and much else. He peppers his story with frequent references to birds’ behaviour and giving the latin name for the bird mentioned. As his bewilderment is explored there are puns on the theme of women’s names, drinking games with Phil and the broken English found on the multinational study in Sweden into the apparently fascinating pied flycatchers.  I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this funny contemporary novel which delves into much about an academic with problems.

The book begins with Simon and Phil in the pub, discussing the recent breakdown of Simon’s  only serious romantic relationship. “Claire and I dissolved our pair – bond” Simon tells Phil, only to be subjected to the Swan Song, where he has to explain the situation within the length of a music track uninterrupted by questions. Phil indulges in a certain amount of teasing, but undoubtedly believes that he has Simon’s best interests at heart. Pippa is a colleague of Simon’s who he sees as a noisy giggler but also who insists that he comes to a dinner party where he spots the very attractive Kim. He does everything to attract her attention, including a blues festival to which he invites Phil. It seems as if she is not that keen on birds or indeed Simon, and he is left to make up puns around her name such “Kimpatient”, despite his intensive research. Developments occur, and Simon discovers that there is much to be learnt from the behaviour of many species.

This is a very entertaining book which is easy to enjoy. There is much to discover about birds as the narrative proceeds; Simon has much to learn about human behaviour. I liked the characters of Phil and his partner Cammie, as Simon says “Society owes her a great debt”. This is a well written contemporary novel of life, love and birds, full of insights into London life and academic investigation. In some senses this is a light read, but also includes a fascinating story of life for those who see life a little differently.  I recommend it as a good read for anyone interested in contemporary relationships.