The Price of Two Sparrows by Christy Collins is a thought-provoking and perceptive examination of multicultural Australia. Read on for my full review.
The Price of Two Sparrows Synopsis
Heico is an ornithologist fighting a losing battle to protect the birds in his beachside suburb. When a journalist asks for comment on a planned development, Heico exaggerates his reports on how many migratory birds use the site. Soon it is revealed that the proposed building is a mosque, and he finds himself embroiled in community resistance to the project. Still, he refuses to back down.
Nahla, Heico’s house cleaner, is trying to find her place in a new country and a new marriage. Isolated and lonely, she sees the mosque as a symbol of what she hopes to find in Australia: community, familiarity, acceptance. But as resistance to the project intensifies, she must summon the courage and the language to claim her space in this new life.
Piercingly clear-eyed and deeply insightful, The Price of Two Sparrows explores what we hold sacred and why. It delicately picks apart questions of community and prejudice, religion and nature in the modern world. This is a beautiful and thought-provoking debut from an award-winning Australian writer.
(Affirm Press, January 2021)
Genre: Literature, Drama
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Having greatly admired the quiet artistry Christy Collins displayed in her award-winning novella The End of Seeing, I was eager to learn what subject matter she would tackle in her debut full-length novel.
The issues explored within The Price of Two Sparrows are ones many would, and perhaps should, avoid tackling. But I knew it was safe in this author’s very capable hands.
Source: Affirm Press
In The Price of Two Sparrows, Collins depicts historical (and societal) context and progression with lists of actual news headlines of the time at the start of chapters, and then swiftly eschews these for intimate first-person narrative viewpoints, authentically flawed moments and introspection. The juxtaposition is striking and the opportunity to walk in another’s shoes highly thought-provoking.
Characters and readers alike are forced to acknowledge that very little in life is black and white, interrogate the basis of their views and reflect upon their underlying motivations.
This text is littered with bird simile, metaphor and literary references along with haunting echoes of displacement and powerlessness. But their judicious and insightful utilisation imbues a sense of intimacy between characters and interconnectedness with nature. The effect is accessibility and thematic resonance rather than decadence; belief in our capacity for greater self-awareness and understanding rather than hopelessness.
‘There is a saying, I think,’ said the Imam. ‘Live and let live?’
The Imam looked at Heico calmly. ‘I am not very much a believer in that. This country does not really belong to any of us – we are all just passing through. We need to do more than let each other live. We need to want each other to thrive.’
As in Christy Collins’ previous work, the lasting gut-punch moments for readers of The Price of Two Sparrows and indeed the characters within it, are borne from the simplest of actions and words softly spoken rather than shouted.
BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5
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‘A deeply empathetic novel. Collins has created something special here.’ – Toni Jordan
‘A beautiful and timely literary flight.’ – Katherine Johnson
‘An elegantly structured study of migration and community in Australia … Reminiscent of The Slap in its thematic echoing … this novel would be well suited to a thoughtful book club or an Australian literature syllabus.’ – Books+Publishing
About the Author, Christy Collins
Christy Collins has worked in the Netherlands and Australia in roles in research, higher education and academic publishing. Her novella The End of Seeing won the Viva La Novella Prize 2015 and is published by Seizure. She has recently completed a PhD in Creative Writing at the University of Tasmania and was a 2017 Asialink resident in Sapporo, Japan.
* Receiving an advanced review copy from the publisher did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.