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The Messenger Bird

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264 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2012

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About the author

Rosanne Hawke

50 books88 followers
When little I ran around with a jotter and a pencil, pretending to write a story but not knowing how to spell any words except Dick, Dora and cat. My mother asked me to tell stories. A lot of my stories stayed in my head, as being the youngest and living in the country didn't bring many opportunities for an audience. I was born in Penola, in South Australia. We had a sheep farm until I was six, then we moved to a property in Central Queensland. I went to school at a one-teacher school in Banana, a little country town named after a bullock.

My first short story was published in the Moura State School magazine in 1967 when I was in grade 8. At 14 years, I moved back to South Australia and attended Gawler High School where I won an Arts Scholarship to complete Years 11 & 12. I started a romantic novel when I was 17 but I burnt it later.

It wasn't until I was working in the Middle East and Pakistan, teaching ESL, bringing up kids, when I started to write seriously. My kids loved the story game we played and one night after telling a story, my daughter asked me to write it down.

I have a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Adelaide and teach Creative Writing at Tabor Adelaide, South Australia, a Christian accredited tertiary institution. I have researched Cornish identity in Australian children's literature and enjoy writing about culture, faith, relationships, displacement and belonging, music and cats.

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5 stars
24 (26%)
4 stars
40 (44%)
3 stars
18 (20%)
2 stars
6 (6%)
1 star
2 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews
Profile Image for Anne Hamilton.
Author 34 books145 followers
January 21, 2020
Four and a half stars.

A YA timeslip book that's really difficult to categorise. It tiptoes on the edge of magic realism but that doesn't quite describe it accurately.

Some spoilers may follow:

Tamar is a young teen who has just lost her adored older brother in a car accident. He'd invited her to go for a drive but she was busy with her music. She feels sure he'd still be alive if only she'd agreed to go with him that day.

Every other chapter is told from the point of view of Gavin who has moved in next door with his parents. His family has lost the farm he'd hoped to inherit and moved south to work for Tamar's dad, Mr Binney.

Tamar's entire family is consumed by grief, self-blame and silence. Her mother has been hospitalised for depression and her father has turned into a workaholic who wants to make sure that everything he’s ever promised his wife about doing up the house is done for her return — and then some! He's obsessed and pours every ounce of energy into restoring the old house in the hope of bringing his wife happiness on her return. It becomes a house full of mystery when he discovers a set of underground rooms.

Meantime Gavin is attracted to Tamar and can’t figure what he’s doing wrong as he tries to gain her attention. Perfectly normal guy. Tamar however has discovered consolation in music and, one day, when she plays an old handwritten piece she's found called 'The Maiden's Prayer', a young man appears in her room as she finishes. Nathaniel Trevena has been drawn out of the past. He lived in her house 120 years previously. Nathaniel becomes her messenger bird, an angel of hope.

Is he real? For a long time, that's an open question.

He teaches her to live again. She teaches him too. He is caught in a deep, private grief over the death of his sister.

Gavin glides in and out of Tamar's life. He'd love her to beam at him in the way she does at his disabled younger brother, Philip.

Little does he know how much he reminds her of her own brother.

History threatens to repeat itself when Nathaniel suggests Tamar not call him again via the music. She steps into the water as Emily once did. Gavin, however, recognises that Philip may not be imagining things when he comes in screaming that a fairy is drowning in their creek.

This is such a hard book to define as it melds genres so effectively you’re not sure if you’re looking at fantasy or an angst-filled teen issue novel. For all that, extremely well written with a very effective ending. It was great to realise Nathaniel had been real, not a figment of Tamar’s overwrought imagination.

Legends of all sorts are lightly peppered throughout the book. Cornish legend includes Cherry of Zennor and Tamara, Tavy and Tawrage. The Russian folktale of the Rusalka is also here, as is Sag-in and the legend of the banana plant.

Many cultures have legends of a messenger bird - in Australia, it's the willy wagtails. Such birds bring news of sickness or death through their dancing. In this story, it's said of Nathaniel that his music could make a willy wagtail bring good news.
Profile Image for Adele Jones.
Author 12 books53 followers
July 12, 2016
Four and a half stars.
I've not yet been disappointed by Rosanne Hawke's work, and this was no exception. As always, Hawke tackles complex family issues of loss and grief with sensitivity and appropriate struggle. The fantasy element was an interesting aspect of this well drawn novel, and I found I could really relate to Tamar's sense of finding herself in music, which ultimately linked her to another time and place. The roughhewn larrikin, but good hearted character of Gavin offered a lighter feel against Tamar's more serious introspection. Slightly unrelated to storylines and characters ... I really liked the cat! :)
Profile Image for Ruth Bonetti.
Author 19 books35 followers
March 14, 2015
After a few chapters I felt dubious about the main character's relationship with a long dead ancestor. And I found myself skipping her journal entries. But it grew on me. One way to work through and handle her grief for a dead brother, but I still am not clear how much to credit to imagination as opposed to some metaphysical realm.
Profile Image for Linsey Painter.
62 reviews4 followers
December 5, 2013
Messenger Bird is a gorgeous book. Tamar and her family are grieving the loss of Tamar's older brother. Each locked in their own world of grief and trying hard to protect each other, they have built up walls around themselves and separated from the world. When Tamar discovers a sheet of music and an old photograph she gradually finds the key to unlock not only her own doorway to freedom but also those of her mother and father.
This book is full of beautiful folktales, music and characters. It is heart achingly familiar to any who have experienced loss and grieved.
Profile Image for nephilim_historian.
4 reviews23 followers
April 22, 2013
I loved it and was in tears by the end. The delicately simple and rounded language that Rosanne Hawke uses suits the setting and vibe of the story so well. It's just beautiful.
15 reviews
July 21, 2020
I loved how this book blended a more traditional YA fantasy element, of time travel etc. with a real grounding in the emotional complexities and struggles of the individual characters. Whilst the references to pop-culture felt a bit weighted, the exploration of folklore and the idea of the messenger bird is really beautifully developed. I enjoyed the struggles between the characters and the perspective shifts created an interesting dynamic. Highly reccomend
Profile Image for Heather.
2,060 reviews9 followers
March 12, 2020
This is the story of Tamara, a young teenager suffering from the death of her beloved, older brother. With the help of Gavin, who works for Tamara's father and Nathaniel, a mysterious boy from the past, Tamara gradually learns to live again.

The Messenger Bird is a gentle story with a nice touch of time travel woven through it. The chapters alternate between Tamara and Gavin, with the occasional chapter going back in time to allow the reader to further understand Nathaniel's story. Music plays an important part in this story. All three protagonists are talented musicians and music helps Tamara to heal. At times I found the plot rather slow but overall, not a bad little story.
Profile Image for Steph.
178 reviews124 followers
April 17, 2012
I love books involving time travel. I don't know if I've mentioned this before. What I loved about the time travel aspect of this book was how the characters dealt with it - not in a 'we need to figure this out and go back in time to kill Hitler!' way, but in a 'so this is happening, how interesting, what does this mean?'. Despite this novel being full of incredibly sad events and dark moments, it's really very sweet - Tamar is a beautiful character, and the entire book is very dream-like. Tamar is somewhat disconnected from reality after the loss of her brother, and her relationship with Nathaniel is lovely, despite him being in the wrong timeframe. It has all of the elements that could make it a generic sort of paranormal romance novel, but it's something else entirely. It has dual narrators, but I found a great deal of Gavin's point-of-view chapters unnecessary - he was well-written and very distinct from Tamar's POV, but hers was where the main plot of the story occurred. He did ground the story in our reality well, though. I read Soraya the Storyteller, by the same author, quite a few years ago for school, and remember it being wonderful. The Messenger Bird is really quite glorious.
Profile Image for Catriona.
62 reviews27 followers
August 30, 2012
I was thinking about what I would if I were to stop living in the next 10 minutes.
My answer was to stop reading this book.

Boring boring boring.

Shit all happened, the characters were one dimensional, and it didn't make sense. The only person I actually liked was Gavin, but for some reason, Rosanna Hawke decided to make his passages have gramatical errors (maybe to differentiate the voices? who knows) which only served to piss me off.

Some guy appears from the 1800s and Tamar hardly questions it? SHE tries not to frighten HIM? What a load of shit. Honestly, if some random guy (let alone one from a different time) snuck into my house, and into the room I was playing the piano in and started playing the violin, I'd be pretty freaked out. Yet Tamar doesn't seem to be bothered by this at all!

I didn't finish reading it, just sort of skimmed the pages, and still nothing of remote interest happens. I read the final chapter, and it was like I hardly missed anything, the story just seemed to continue.
Anyway, I'm gonna give it a 2/50, cause the cover is pretty.
Profile Image for Ursula.
73 reviews
November 16, 2016
This book was a tear jerker to say the least. The main character deals with the death of her brother and the guilt that she feels about it, no one really told her everything about the car crash which causes her to feel really guilty. She's convinced that she should have been in the car with him. She has a love of music but since his death she hasn't played anything because she didn't go with him because she wanted to practice. She meets a ghost who helps her to rekindle her love for music and deal with her loss, but the ghost is also having problems back home, he's not a ghost but a man from the past who's sister and family are going through some problems, he stops seeing her when things take a turn for the worst but they both change the outcomes of their lives and help each other through some tough situations and intense feelings of greif, guilt and sadness. A must read
Profile Image for Pam Saunders.
595 reviews9 followers
March 25, 2012
Set in rural South Australia, a family is having serious problems dealing with the death of the eldest son. Missed by all, we learn of his world through his sister who's desire for his return is so great it pulls another fine young man from the past to comfort her. Their music, compassion and friendship help with some of the pain and guilt. A book of moods complimented by a beautiful cover. Tempted to give it 5 stars.
Profile Image for Jessica.
67 reviews
June 14, 2012
I picked this book up from the school library because it was new and I loved the cover. I instantly fell in love with Gavin, (even though he's Australian) and Tamar is just beautiful. I was hoping they'd kiss in the end, but they didn't and that was the only put down. All-round it was a great book.
Profile Image for Lyn Battersby.
234 reviews12 followers
December 23, 2012
Lyn is a judge for the Aurealis Awards. This review is the personal opinion of Lyn herself, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of any judging panel, the judging coordinator or the Aurealis Awards management team.

I will be rating this once the AAs are announced.
Profile Image for Helen.
1,258 reviews9 followers
November 10, 2015
Nice story for teens dealing with how death of a loved one affects the whole family in different ways. Interesting use of time slip to get at the history of the farm and again how characters deal with death. Like how it swapped from boy to girl and then back in the past for different perspectives.
Profile Image for Shanti.
1,058 reviews24 followers
January 24, 2016
The prose stuttered a bit and there weren't any messenger birds and everyone was a wee bit underdeveloped and the time travel made no sense... but I still really enjoyed this book. I really liked the characters voices and I loved the story of a journey to healing, romance free.
Profile Image for Rhiannon.
2 reviews
March 13, 2015
I adored this book, I love how the author has written the character of Tamar and her family.
Displaying 1 - 18 of 18 reviews

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