Anna Latimer's debut novel ‘The Language of Birds’ is a compelling story of love, loss, fear and redemption with three extraordinary vivid settings against which its clash of cultures plays out.
There is St Kilda, the treeless, harsh, abandoned island once known as ‘the edge of the world’.
Then there is the eerie emptiness of the Norfolk fens, teeming with birds from all over the globe.
And there are the dense forests around Chernobyl, the forbidden zone where radiation still renders whole swathes of land uninhabitable but where half-ruined villages still survive, supporting the most tenacious and determined villagers.
Svetlana finds herself uprooted from her Ukrainian home through a series of horrific events and meets the reclusive Mark, whose diffidence towards strangers is over-powered by his growing need to be Svetlana’s protector. Meanwhile Svetlana’s grandmother Katya continues to scratch out a living in the half-dead forests near Chernobyl.
There is tragedy, heartbreak and a brooding menace in the form of the ruthless criminal Ivan. There is loss, love and wonder, and finally some kind of redemption and peace. Beautifully written and characterized, this is a stunning debut from a writer who has been mentored for two years by Jane Rogers. Her work is poised, mature and gripping.