Featherhood : 'The best piece of nature writing since H is for Hawk, and the most powerful work of biography I have read in years' Neil Gaiman

4.18 (997 ratings by Goodreads)
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'The best piece of nature writing since H is for Hawk, and the most powerful work of biography I have read in years' Neil Gaiman

'Wonderful - I can't recommend it too highly' Helen Macdonald

'One of those rare, enchanted books' Isabella Tree

'Beautiful - it made me cry' Simon Amstell

'I was entranced' Cathy Rentzenbrink

This is a story about birds and fathers.

About the young magpie that fell from its nest in a Bermondsey junkyard into Charlie Gilmour's life - and swiftly changed it. Demanding worms around the clock, riffling through his wallet, sharing his baths and roosting in his hair...

About the jackdaw kept at a Cornish stately home by Heathcote Williams, anarchist, poet, magician, stealer of Christmas, and Charlie's biological father who vanished from his life in the dead of night.

It is a story about repetition across generations and birds that run in the blood; about a terror of repeating the sins of the father and a desire to build a nest of one's own.

It is a story about change - from wild to tame; from sanity to madness; from life to death to birth; from freedom to captivity and back again, via an insane asylum, a prison and a magpie's nest.

And ultimately, it is the story of a love affair between a man and a magpie.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 126 x 198 x 24mm | 260g
  • Weidenfeld & Nicolson
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1474609481
  • 9781474609487
  • 142,883

Review Text

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
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Review quote

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 * 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 * Neil Gaiman * Wonderful - I can't recommend it too highly * Helen Macdonald, author of H IS FOR HAWK * Beautiful, wise, compassionate and powerful, Featherhood is one of those rare, enchanted books that sings to the soul of what it is to be * Isabella Tree, author of WILDING * What a book! I was entranced. A personal reckoning which is simultaneously brutal and joyous. It's full of light. I want to tell everyone about it * Cathy Rentzenbrink, author of THE LAST ACT OF LOVE * This stunning memoir flashes with as many colours as its enchanting subject, and draws us into a world of eccentric characters impossible to predict or forget. Savage, mischievous, moving, sublime * Rhik Samadder, author of I NEVER SAID I LOVED YOU * FEATHERHOOD, it would be tempting to say, is where Helen Macdonald's H Is For Hawk meets Gerald Durrell's My Family And Other Animals. But Charlie Gilmour's memoir is so original and ingeniously wrought, it stands on its own as a book to which others will surely be compared... Gilmour's language is as precise as his gaze is forensic. He is something of a magician himself, conjuring whole vivid personalities with a few deft strokes of his pen... He can slay you with his succinct summoning of a small boy's struggles... and he can dazzle you with the gem-like images of nature he creates which, like all writers who draw you into their orbit, thrum with life... Remarkable.' -- Ginny Dougary * DAILY MAIL, Book of the Week * It is wise, self-aware, never forced, often funny, beautifully crafted, and, in the end, as moving as Kes, that other great work about a boy who is given the gift of liberation by a bird. -- Craig Brown * MAIL ON SUNDAY * A soaring debut... A sincere and searing tale of loss, addictive despair, the redemptive power of love, the natural world and a shit-dropping, feather-moulting talking magpie... This will undoubtedly be held up alongside H Is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald's memoir that saw her tame her grief and a bird of prey in her living room. But Featherhood is an equal, if not better, work of magpie investigation that ranks among the best modern coming-of-age memoirs. -- Helen Davies * SUNDAY TIMES CULTURE * A profound exploration of grief, fragmented families, nature versus nurture and whether we are doomed to repeat the sins of our fathers. But it is also a gladdening celebration of what it is to nurture and bring forth new life. -- Caroline Sanderson * SUNDAY EXPRESS S MAGAZINE * A beautiful book, sensitive and compelling - it made me cry * Simon Amstell * I loved Featherhood. About nature and growth, about belonging and not belonging, it is beautiful * Andrew O'Hagan, author of THE ILLUMINATIONS * Utterly absorbing, astonishingly well-written, full of heart, Featherhood is the most arresting book I've read for a very long time * Cressida Connolly, author of AFTER THE PARTY * The extraordinary story of an extraordinary family * Sophie Heawood, author of THE HANGOVER GAMES * Featherhood is an incisive, funny and at times traumatic study of the damage done by destructive father-son relationships and the struggle to smash generational cycles. -- David Marsland * EVENING STANDARD * A wonderful, moving book. His account of raising a young magpie offers a lovely insight into this fascinating bird * James Macdonald Lockhart, author of RAPTOR * [An] affecting and beautifully written memoir. * THE BOOKSELLER, Editor's Choice * A good time in a weird way - I have never read anything so filthy * Nell Zink, author of THE WALL CREEPER * Emotional, touching and often odd, Gilmour's memoir about two key relationships - one with his late father and the other with a magpie - lingers long after the final page. -- Sarah Hughes * I NEWSPAPER * I'm having a lovely time with Featherhood by Charlie Gilmour. He is such a tender writer, the book is a magical encounter with birds and fathers. * Andrew O'Hagan in GUARDIAN * Touching and true, with flashes of black humour, it's a fascinating story. It's also a brilliant examination of nature vs nurture. Gilmour is certainly a born writer. -- Cressida Connelly * THE SPECTATOR, Books of the Year * Written with economy, insight, and rare beauty - a perfect nature memoir for our times -- Andrew Lycett * THE SPECTATOR * A tender coming-of-age memoir. It's an intelligent debut that shows that Gilmour, for all his celebrity family connections, is undoubtedly a remarkable writer in his own right. -- Lucy Knight * THE SUNDAY TIMES, Memoir of the Year * Featherhood is an incisive, funny and at times traumatic study of the damage done by destructive father-son relationships. * THE OLDIE * Gilmour's unforgettable memoir is both a beautiful piece of nature writing about caring for a magpie and a brutally honest account of his difficult relationship with his late father, the poet Heathcote Williams. -- Sarah Hughes * I NEWSPAPER, Best Books of 2020 * A delicately choreographed story of salvation through a bird, with echoes of Barry Hines's classic A Kestrel For A Knave. -- Craig Brown * MAIL ON SUNDAY, Best Books of the Year * Bird and author explore this explosive terrain in an exhilarating dance of transformation, from wild to tame, captivity to freedom and darkness to light. -- Ariane Bankes * THE TABLET, Best Books of the Year * Gilmour... is fearless in sharing himself with readers. As he works through his relationships, the emotional freight is not always subtle, but this comes from a generosity and openness on his part, which, ultimately, is what makes "Featherhood" so lovely and inviting. Gilmour practices no magic here; he distracts the reader with no glitzy baubles. He gives us a man and a bird and tells us, best he can, what they've come to know about the world as it is. He is willing to spill a little blood. -- C J Hauser * THE NEW YORK TIMES * Redemptive, beautifully written and often very funny, this is a moving study of the power of human (and magpie) love to repair even the most wounded heart. -- Jane Shilling * DAILY MAIL *
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About Charlie Gilmour

Charlie Gilmour was born in 1989 and raised in London and Sussex. He read history at Cambridge University, with a brief interlude in 2011 at Her Majesty's Prison Wandsworth. He lives in South London with his wife, Janina, and their daughter, Olga.
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Rating details

997 ratings
4.18 out of 5 stars
5 41% (410)
4 39% (384)
3 18% (175)
2 2% (24)
1 0% (4)
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