Synopses & Reviews
The Duke of Deception meets H Is for Hawk in this wry, moving story of a young man who, as his estranged father is dying, saves a baby magpie only to find that caring for the mischievous bird has, in fact, saved him.
One spring day, a baby magpie falls out of its nest and into Charlie Gilmour's hands. Magpies, he and his girlfriend soon discover, are as clever and mischievous as monkeys. They are also notorious thieves, and this one quickly steals his heart. By the time the creature develops the shiny black feathers whose iridescent sheen inspires the name Benzene, Charlie and the bird have forged an unbreakable bond.
As a young boy, Charlie was adopted by his stepfather — David Gilmour of Pink Floyd — whom he considered to be his true father. But while caring for Benzene, Charlie comes across a poem written by his biological father, an eccentric British poet named Heathcote Williams who vanished when Charlie was six months old. As he grapples with Heathcote's abandonment, Charlie is drawn to the poem, in which Heathcote describes how an impish young jackdaw — like magpies, also a member of the crow family — fell from its nest and captured his affection, just as Benzene had captured his son's.
According to myth, magpies and jackdaws are heralds of birth and death. As it happens, Benzene's arrival preceded a deathbed reunion between Charlie, his dying father, and his long-lost sisters. And the bird helps Charlie unravel his fears about repeating the past — and embrace the role of father himself.
A bird falls, a father dies, a child is born. Featherhood is the unforgettable story of a love affair between a man and a bird. It is also a beautiful and affecting memoir about childhood and parenthood, captivity and freedom, grief and love.
"Wonderful — I can't recommend it too highly." Helen Macdonald, author of H is for Hawk
"Featherhood is one of the best books I've ever read. I urge you to seek it out, buy it, and be enchanted. It's incredibly moving and I loved every single page." Elton John
"[Gilmour's] prose is as darkly iridescent as the magpie's feathers, his wit is winged....A resplendent interspecies memoir of nature, nurture, revelation, and love." Booklist (Starred Review)
"A moving chronicle....The author's introspection is rewarding without becoming maudlin, and his poetic take on the complexities of father/son relationships resonates. This spirited outing hits all the right buttons for memoir lovers." Publishers Weekly
"Featherhood is an astonishing achievement: a book about fathers and their children, about magicians and birds, about the hurt we pass on from generation to generation, and the ways we can try to heal. It's a journey that we take with a magpie, across the decades of Charlie's life, and the life of his biological father. It's the best piece of nature writing since H is for Hawk, and the most powerful work of biography I have read in years. It announces Charlie Gilmour as a major new writing talent, as he weaves words like a poet and offers us continual small treasures like a magpie." Neil Gaiman
"A wonderful, moving book. The story of Gilmour's family is deeply felt. His account of raising a young magpie offers a lovely insight into this fascinating bird. The two stories intertwine gracefully and perceptively, bringing solace and understanding with them." James Macdonald Lockhart, author of Raptor
"Featherhood, Charlie Gilmour's miraculous account of his life raising a magpie, shows us that learning how to fly is as hard for a bird as it is for a young man, especially when that young man's father weighs on him like a rock. Gilmour is a hero, for surviving the horrible storms he flew through before he met the magpie, and for the magic he glides through after." Robert Sullivan, author of Cross Country
"A sensitive, often moving chronicle of transformation for bird and man." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Charlie Gilmour lives in South London with his wife and daughter.