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Mateship With Birds

3.07 of 5 stars 3.07  ·  rating details  ·  728 ratings  ·  155 reviews
On the outskirts of an Australian country town in the 1950s, a lonely farmer trains his binoculars on a family of kookaburras that roost in a tree near his house. Harry observes the kookaburras through a year of feast, famine, birth, death, war, romance and song. As Harry watches the birds, his next door neighbour has her own set of binoculars trained on him. Ardent, hard- ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published February 1st 2012 by PanMacmillan Australia (first published 2012)
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The Sunlit Zone by Lisa JacobsonLike a House on Fire by Cate KennedyMateship With Birds by Carrie TiffanyThe Burial by Courtney CollinsQuestions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser
The Stella Prize 2013
3rd out of 6 books — 4 voters
The Beloved by Annah FaulknerThe Daughters of Mars by Thomas KeneallyFloundering by Romy AshThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. StedmanMateship With Birds by Carrie Tiffany
Miles Franklin Longlist 2013
4th out of 10 books — 6 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,383)
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I took Mateship with Birds back to the library this morning having finished it a couple of weeks ago. It’s only now that I feel able to say something about it.

Carrie Tiffany has won awards – including The Stella Prize and comes highly praised, you can read Kerryn Goldsworthy’s comments for a much better understanding than what I am giving you. I am sure the book is everything the critics and judges claim it to be. But I found it to be a little book, about little people who do little things. Perh
Lisa Nicholls
Tiffany managed to create an interesting mix of characters and raised some interesting ideas, however this book to me felt like a jumbled together collection of short stories that reached no real engrossing conclusion. The tension in the novel was commendable, however the overall plot seemed lacking and not once did I feel engrossed or connected to any one of the characters.
The themes of sexual maturity and immaturity weave throughout the book constantly, mostly in a disturbing fashion. Persona
When a book comes along about cows, dairy farming, frustrated desire and falling in love, I have to say I'm reading up a storm. The cows ( Enid, Fatty, Babs, Big Joyce, Wee Joyce, Stumbles and the rest) and the pasture, figure as intensely as the birds that Harry writes about , and I find myself longing to subscribe to the Victorian Dairy Farmer's on a farm in the '50's was about applied science, but no amount of science can help Harry in the seduction of his hard-working and singl ...more
Gerhardt Himmelmann
This is a book about sex. Sex between humans, sex between other animals, and in at least one instance, sex between a human and another animal. Although extremely explicit, even when describing the various casual perversions of rural life, the book is never crude for the sake of being crude or for cheap shock value.

Set in rural Victoria of the 1950s, the central characters are Harry, a dairy farmer, and Betty, a nurse and single mother of two children who has moved in next door to him. The plot
Jun 18, 2013 Elaine rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
Ho hum. For a book about birds, this one never got off the ground. Tiffany has an interesting writing style, combining dry technical passages about dairy farming (there are a lot of words you won't even know what they mean - not that it really matters), close (and quite interesting) observations of Australian bird life and the often brutal ends that birds meet, with snatches of narrative by various members of two neighboring Australian rural households in the 50s.

Be warned, for those of you wit
Steve lovell
Although I possess a tome giving name to the copious array of birds that populate my island, I am no amateur ornithologist. Naturally the more common species that abound around my riverside abode – black swan, kookaburra, pelican, blue wren as well as the uninspiring starling and sparrow – are known, as is the majestic sea eagle that occasionally soars down the valley. The rich variety of water fowl present on the Derwent elude recognition though, as are a mystery to me the brightly plumed stand ...more
I was really excited to have won this book after hearing from a friend how much she enjoyed the Carrie Tiffany previous book ‘Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living’. Unfortunately this didn’t work for me.

This story is about the relationship between neighbours, Harry and Betty, and life in a small country town of Victoria in the 1950’s. Harry is a middle aged bachelor - if he’s not attending to his dairy farm, he spends most of his free time journal writing, poetry, and bird observation. Harry l
Moses Kilolo
This book started so well, with its lyrical prose and clarity, that I thought I would devour it in a single seating. I appreciate the attention to detail, and the fact that it made me feel (though weird feelings, I should say). Carrie Tiffany describes the human body like nothing I have ever read. Even the act of sex itself comes under sharply observed details, albeit calm, sweet and ultimately quite sensual. I wonder what I would have done if I was still an adolescent. I'd hate to think of my h ...more
As this book falls completely outside of my usual read I think it is worth pointing out that my view is probably worth less than those who are regulars in the genre. As I have very few reads in this genre to compare it to I cannot say where exactly it falls in greatness for the genre. That being said, of the few books that I have read in this area this one does not compare in the slightest.

In my mind it seems as though it’s just a collection of random moments across the lives of the characters w
This short novel is set in 1953, in rural Cohuna. Harry and his dog Sip spend their days at the dairy farm, where he cares for his herd and watches the birds, including a family of kookaburras. His wife Edna left him for the President of the Bird Observers Club and now he is alone and attracted to neighbour Betty. Betty, in turn, imagines a relationship with Harry; who acts as a father figure to her two children, Michael and Hazel. Another neighbour, Mr Mues, is, frankly, best avoided...

The loca
The title of this book has double meanings for an Australian reader - both "mateship" and "birds" have dual meanings, so I had an idea of what the content would be before I started it. I wasn't wrong! Harry's attempts to educate Michael in the birds and the bees were very clumsy and amusing (although Michael's mother wasn't amused!).

I loved how this book really captured country life in Australia and that it mentioned towns that I'm familiar with. The journal that Harry keeps about the kookaburra
Mateship with Birds: by Carrie Tiffany. This is a book beautifully written which evokes perfectly and unsentimentally life in the repressed 1950s in Victoria, Australia. The play on words "Mateship" and "Birds" was obvious from the beginning and the interwoven stories of Harry and Betty, and the kookaburras was masterful. There were scenes that I preferred not to read about involving Mues and I skipped over these because they made me feel very uncomfortable. The style of the diary of the kookabu ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘And adults are part of this pretence – they hold one thing in their hand and call it another.’

It’s 1953, and just outside the small country town of Cohuna in adjacent farmhouses live Harry and Betty. Harry is a dairy farmer and keen birdwatcher, tending his cows in accordance with the rhythms of milking and breeding. Harry was once married, but his wife left him for another birdwatcher. He wonders what went wrong. Betty, the woman next door, is bringing up two children on her own. Betty works a
Mateship with Birds is a clever title for this book. While’ bird’ can mean both the winged variety and in slang, a sexually attractive woman, ’mateship’ draws on dual meanings too: mating - finding a mate, courtship rituals and mating for life; and also the Australian notion of mateship – meaning a special kind of friendship: laconic, but loyal: an indivisible, enduring bond between equals. In an Australian bush town in the 1950s, the wooing of a woman is more complex than the instinctive courts ...more
Alexandra Daw
I'm afraid I must be a cultural cretin because I didn't enjoy this book at all. I was really hoping to do so. I just ended up feeling that the characters had lived too long in the country and too closely with animals for their own mental health. Very dark. Too dark...even for me. But I'm happy to discuss and be enlightened. Let me know what you thought. I liked the cover design. And I know that sounds facile but I do like it. At least it's one good thing I can say about the book. That and that's ...more
Amy Michelle
So I've got 37 pages into this book and I'm stopping. Usually I wouldn't write a review but maybe someone will see this and save themselves the horror of reading it. It is disgusting. Don't read it, on page 7 you read about a dogs "dick-like" tail. On page 10 an old man lures a child into his farm with the promise of a pony, and then shows her his penis. On page 37 a THREE YEAR OLD child is found with no knickers on and bought to her mother, who is out shopping, her response is to "shake her hea ...more
Call me a cultural cretin, but this book didn't work it for me. The premis was promising: a book about sexual tensions between neighbours set in rural Australia, built upon the metaphors of birds and diary farming. But the book was bizarre; the plot is confusing, the writing inconherent. The sexual content of the book was crude and disgusting. A lot of the times I find myself pausing and asking "what was the point of THAT?". I finished the book because I am a "finisher", however I didn't enjoy t ...more
Bronwyn Mcloughlin
I didn't actually set out to read this book - I merely tried to use it as we road tested our new eBook service. It took some time to cooperate, but finally I had the text in front of me, and off I went. I had heard a lot about this novel, as a very visceral depiction of Australian country life. And it is. I didn' t really want to know about the personal habits of lonely old cockies, and yet it had its place in the narrative. Country life is not easy, nor yet idyllic but it has its joys. There is ...more
I loved this book although it is not by any means an "easy" read in terms of content. It was at times bleak, incredibly sad, disturbing and uncomfortable, but it has continued to occupy my mind in the two weeks since I finished it. It is a book about relationships (both human and bird), a book about birds, a book about sex and intamacy, and ulimately, I think, an allegorical story about writing - the power of writing, the value we put on it, and our relationship with it. Bits of The book "Matesh ...more
Kirat Kaur
A disappointing read, especially after glowing reviews, a Stella Prize and a Miles Franklin shortlist.

The novel does have its moments, especially in Tiffany's descriptions of the rural Australian landscape and when she's speaking from inside her characters. But it had a very 'creative writing class' feel to it. I especially disliked Harry's bird journal entries; Tiffany really seemed to be stretching an attempt at poetic metaphors there.

Crikey's Bethanie Blanchard puts its best, when she says th
Two and a half stars.

I enjoyed many aspects of this book, the sparse prose brought to life the setting in 1950s Cohuna, including the dairy farm of Harry, and his next door neighbour Betty with her two kids. Life is hard for everyone, but they just get on with things, and this is shown in an unsentimental way laced with humour. We see vignettes of life rather than a straightforward narrative, and in the end it was the disjointed nature of the story-telling, plus my frustration with the main cha
Disappointing, I regret to say as I really wanted to like this novel. I found the characters quite impenetrable, and certain narrative elements (the bird notes, the nature journal, the health journal, the letter, etc) just didn't work for me at all - for many of them, I just didn't believe them, they completely didn't ring true. Found most of the characters obtuse, and hard to connect with. I have nothing against bleak novels, but I just couldn't enter the world Tiffany created here. For a novel ...more
I normally like aussie country stories however I found this book too disjointed to even really get into the story. The writing style felt scatty and I was distracted by the constant jumping from idea to idea.

Whilst the story was mostly ok I was not comfortable with some of the content and felt it detracted rather than added to the story. One good thing was the 'poetry like' musings of the lead about the family of kookaburras, this I found very amusing.

A very quick read, thanks FirstReads giveaw
Carrie Tiffany's Mateship with Birds is a rare novel. It's slow and subdued; speaking to its reader in a voice that's clear, confident - and quietly original. From the sublime opening passage, Tiffany's writing lulls the reader softly into the rhythm of country life. And yet, for all this novel's tenderness, Mateship with Birds has a troubling side, too...

You can read my complete review of Mateship with Birds on my blog, Book to the Future - click here.
Louise Allan
Much has already been written about ‘Mateship With Birds’ since it won the inaugural Stella Prize in 2013 and was shortlisted for a slew of awards, including the Miles Franklin Award 2013, the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction 2012, and the Melbourne Prize for Literature Best Writing Award. It was also longlisted for the 2014 IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.

In a nutshell, I loved it. I read it in an afternoon while on holiday—it’s short, it’s moving, and it’s very funny. If I had to sum
Karen M
Carrie Tiffany’s Mateship with Birds, set in rural Australia, in the 1950’s, is a reflection on nature in it’s various expressions -birds, cows, dogs, people. I found it oddly difficult to stay with this book, and took a long time to read it. I’m not sure why, since whenever I did pick it up, I usually found it quite delicious. Perhaps it’s meditative or reflective nature, rather than a driving storyline made it easy to pick up something more compelling - anyway, I did finish it, and I’m glad I ...more
Alison O'keefe
I would have given this 3.5 stars if it was an option. I liked this story, but thought it didn't really go anywhere. The romance that started to develop was sweet and nice - but the complication was flat and underwhelming. I found the language use to be very ugly and blunt in many places - not romanticised at all, which gave it a certain feel that was maintained for the whole book which was good. It was a good book with some strong characters, also Australian which was nice.
Karen Beath
I feel like a literary luddite. This novel won the 2013 Stella prize and I found myself underwhelmed by it. Mateship with birds is set in 1950's rural Australia and tells the story of Harry and Betty. Harry is a divorced farmer with an interest in birdwatching. Betty is a single, unmarried mother of 2. Harry takes it upon himself to act as a father figure to Betty's children and goes so far as to provide her son with his own, unusual and awkward form of sex education. Harry and Betty are attract ...more
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Feb 23, 2014 Di rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: bookclub
Carrie Tiffany's writing is lovely. I really enjoyed the quirky characters and descriptions as the tentative relationship between dairy farmer Harry and his neighbour, single mother Betty and her two children. Characters and vignettes of the paedophile Mues and the sheep buggerer were memorable. Harry's sex instruction letter to young Michael produced a strange commentary on a man's perspective on sexual relations and the poems that charted the lives of the local birds, in particular the local k ...more
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The Stella Prize ...: Mateship with Birds 1 11 Apr 04, 2013 03:08PM  
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English-born Australian author. Born in 1965, she emigrated to Australia with her family in the early 70s and grew up in Perth, WA. Carrie Tiffany spent her early twenties working as a park ranger in the Red Centre and now lives in Melbourne, where she works as an agricultural journalist.
More about Carrie Tiffany...
Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living Griffith REVIEW 43: Pacific Highways The Best Australian Essays 2014 Writing a Novel Anthology, 2013 The BBC International Short Story Award 2012

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“The girl Dora might be water, but his Betty is oil. You can't take oil lightly. It seeps into your skin. It marks you.” 2 likes
“You can kill me when I no longer enjoy a cup of tea” 1 likes
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