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The Gravity of Birds

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  4,768 Ratings  ·  729 Reviews
In this compelling debut novel, an art authenticator and an art historian are employed by a famous, reclusive painter to sell a never-before-seen portrait, leading them to discover devastating secrets two sisters have kept from each other, and from the artist who determined the course of their lives.

How do you find someone who wants to be lost?

Sisters Natalie and Alice Kes
Hardcover, 295 pages
Published August 6th 2013 by Simon & Schuster (first published August 1st 2013)
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Cricket Muse If you refer to the flashbacks, I kept track through the noted year for the backstory on the Kessler sisters. It actually flowed fairly well and came…moreIf you refer to the flashbacks, I kept track through the noted year for the backstory on the Kessler sisters. It actually flowed fairly well and came together well from past to present. (less)

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Diane S ☔
Jan 28, 2013 rated it really liked it
3.5 A family lake house, two sisters, and a young painter living next door, who comes from a wealthy family that will not accept painting as a reliable job source. This is a quiet book, a book about things under the surface, of paintings and human hearts. About wrong decisions made that affect the future of all of them.

This book drew me in, the prose is wonderful at times, the moments shared between the characters are poignant. Misunderstandings are a the forefront of most of what happens in th
This novel tries to straddle the line between literary and commercial fiction. What the publishing gods have deemed upmarket fiction. Unfortunately for THE GRAVITY OF BIRDS, it probably tries a little too hard, and therefore doesn’t do either as effectively as if it just picked one and flew above the treetops. Instead, it crash landed into a cactus, and I was left picking needles out of my butt.

The structure proved a little confusing, with the movement between time periods, and I was prone to fo
Cassondra Windwalker
Mar 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written. The prose lilts, dips, and soars like the flight of the birds whose images run through its pages. A haunting story of the power of love, that however flawed and mysterious, must indelibly change the fate of all who experience it. Every chapter left me aching for the next. The grief bound in this book's pages was tied up with grace, so that rather being overwhelmed by sadness, the reader is bouyed by hope. These characters will stay with you long after you have finished the t ...more
Melissa Crytzer Fry
May 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Naturally, with the word “birds” in the title, I was drawn to this book. And with descriptions such as this, it certainly didn’t disappoint:

A breeze stirred the branches, and she saw the brilliant yellow head and underparts standing out like petals of a sunflower against the backdrop of leaves; the undertail, a stark white. His beak was long, pointed and black; his shoulders a mossy green, a blend of the citron yellow of his head and the flat slate of his feathers. He had a black dot of an eye,
Megan Readinginthesunshine
The cover of The Gravity Of Birds is truly beautiful, I loved the colours and the scene in the picture caught my attention straight away. I also was caught by the tagline “That summer, everything changed”….it had me intrigued instantly – What had changed? Who was affected? It made me very keen to start reading!

The Gravity Of Birds begins with two sisters, Alice and Natalie. Alice is a dreamer, whilst Natalie is very headstrong girl. Whilst on a holiday with their family, Alice is drawn in by Tho
Aug 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I found out about 'The Gravity of Birds' by Tracy Guzeman through an email for new literary fiction from I was drawn to this particular book because of the title and the cover art. Reading the synopsis put me off because I have never been a fan of stories revolving around several characters that span scores of years. I'm older and I just don't feel that I can learn or even be surprised by anything people and characters in books do or don't do. I just don't care anymore, unfortunately ...more
Jess The Bookworm
Nov 26, 2017 rated it liked it
More like 2.5 stars.

This story follows the lives of Alice and Natalie Kessler, and the events of the summer during their adolescence which changed their lives forever. Alice and Natalie met the talented older painter, Thomas Bayber when they were teenagers, whilst on holiday with their parents at the lake, and he wants to paint family portraits for them, all the while with the sisters forming an interest in him.

The story jumps to the present day, where Thomas is now a renowned artist, who unveil
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was intrigued after the first chapter, unfortunately the book went downhill from there. I found there were too many minor characters that I just did not care about. I wanted to find out about the painting as the unraveling of art history is usually quite interesting, but not here. I found this novel tedious. There were a few good chapters; when Alice gets caught in the rain, but overall, not what I thought it would be. I do think the author has a great grasp on character writing. I felt like I ...more
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars.

I enjoyed the story for sure! I definitely wanted to know what happened and was intrigued by the characters and the mystery surrounding them all. There was a little too much description for me which would cause me to want to skip over paragraphs. Aside from that it was very good.
May 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Laura by: publisher ARC
A love story that is less about love than about the spaces between what is seen and not seen. What lies beneath the surface is as important in The Gravity of Birds as what is evident. Sisters, a family, both torn apart and held together by their interactions with the artist Thomas Bayber. There are too many traps here for the reviewer. Anything I could say would be a spoiler.

What lies beneath the surface is as important in The Gravity of Birds as what is evident. Sisters, a family, both torn ap
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Why is it sometimes easier to write what you did not like about something, versus what you did like? Like is hard to encompass sometimes, it just is.

Here are some of my fav reviews:
“The Gravity of Birds is one of those rare, exquisitely written novels that haunt you long after you’ve finished the last page. Guzeman writes of both the fragility of the human spirit and its inner strength. The book unfurls like a hidden canvas, soaked with color, emotional longing, and a desire to make sense of wh
Oct 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The Gravity Of Birds
Tracy Guzeman

My thoughts after reading this book...

This is a book about losses. Aching, blinding, heartbreaking life altering losses. This lovely book with its beautiful writing is about pain and sadness. It is also about lies and separation and choices...all of these made both with love and without love. The sadness in this book is heartbreaking because it can not be undone or made better. It's the kind of sadness that feels as though it could have been avoided if everyone
Feb 16, 2013 rated it it was ok
I expected to love this. The storyline sounds promising—Thomas Bayber, a reclusive celebrated artist, unveils a provocative work he had hidden away for four decades: a portrait of himself and two sisters (Alice and Natalie Kessler) who summered in a lake house near his family’s vacation home. But before he will agree to sell the painting, Bayber sends the art historian who catalogued his works and a brilliant young art authenticator off on a quest to find Alice and Natalie, who seem to have disa ...more
Allyce Cameron
Jul 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Such a beautifully written and melancholy debut. All about the choices we make and how they affect our lives. Filled with descriptive imagery and three dimensional characters each with their own flaws this is a book that you won't soon forget. Jumping betweent past and present I was sorely tempted to skip chapters and read on, especially during Alice's segments, but restrained myself and everything was revealed in time. A step above the average novel I was captivated within the first chapter and ...more
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I liked this book a great deal. I can't say I loved it because I found so much of it sad:
the sadness of a single decision and the long term ramifications, the sadness of grudges held close and the lives ruined as a result, the sadness of a lifetime of lies, the sadness of lives limited by chronic illness. Yet, Tracey Guzeman offers threads of light and love... if only each character will open up to them.
I found this book well written and truly enjoyed!
Apr 01, 2015 rated it liked it
I won a copy of this book from a contest held on Twitter by @HistoricalFix. This review in its entirety was originally posted at

I thought The Gravity of Birds was interesting and was quite strong at the beginning in presenting the two storylines: that of the Kessler sisters and the arrival of Thomas Bayber in their lives, and the contemporary story with an elderly Thomas seeking out the sisters. It left me wondering what what happened t
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
3/26 - Won in First Reads giveaway on Goodreads.

4/27 - Received this book in the mail today.

5/8 - Totally loved this book. It wasn't "amazing" like Goodreads says when I hover over the 5 star rating, but it was really good and really well done. I liked (and didn't like) the characters. I was drawn into the story (although it was a bit slow at the beginning) and then there were the few twists that I did not anticipate that really kicked the story and interest factor into gear for me. There's a lo
Becky Loader
Nov 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I feel as if I know all the characters in Guzeman's book. She made them all visible, with their faults and foibles intact, and I was right there with them in the story. Told in chapters that correspond to different years in the development of the plot, the book unfolds quickly as a complex intertwining of places, personalities, sibling rivalry, art, deceit, and reconciliation. Two sisters and a talented young artist meet at a lake cabin, and the moment is electric. I loved the symbol of the gros ...more
Apr 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I rate books of fiction by how well I am entertained by them. This one was hard to put down, it had some mystery to it, a lot of interaction among just a few main characters, and was even funny at times. I liked the authors style, many layers all coming to together at the end, so will look for more from her.
Bruna Vraničić Vujević
Baš me se dojmila. Trebalo mi je malo dulje da je pročitam ali samo zbog nedostatka vremena. Odlični likovi, sjetna i melankolična priča, baš me je ponijela. Uživala sam.
Aug 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
There are events and moments of epiphany that change the course of not just one life but many. Chapter One opens at one of those junctures. It is the summer of 1963. Fourteen year old Alice Kessler, ever watchful of both birds and adults, explores the awakening of her own sexual curiosity. She also recognizes the first symptoms of what will become a debilitating disease. At the same time her seventeen year old sister Natalie, the beauty of the family, has shifted abruptly and inexplicably from m ...more
Bonnie Brody
Sep 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book and appreciated how much of it had to do with art and artists. Being married to an artist, the book really resonated with me despite the fact that my husband's personality is not at all like the protagonist's.

The central character in this book is Thomas Bayber, an artist of great renown but who has not painted anything for over twenty years. He is in his seventies and living as a recluse in a dark and dingy apartment in New York City. Supposedly, all of his paintings a
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Title: The Gravity of birds
Author: Tracy Guzeman
Publisher: Harpercollins UK
Publication Date: 15th August 2013

A haunting debut of love in all its forms, The Gravity of Birds perfectly
captures the devastating consequences betrayal can have through the decades, echoing right through to the present day.

Perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Maggie O’Farrell.

Sisters Alice and Natalie were once close, but adolescence has wrenched them apart. Alice is a dreamer who loves books and birds; Natalie is headst
Kamryn (GreyZone)
Jan 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-library-2017

I don't think there could have been a better time to read this than when I was in my first oil painting class. I would build up texture and color and trying to highlight, only to work on this novel before moving on with my day. It almost seemed as if I had insight knowledge, a special connection with the artist in the story. Also, I got complimented on the book's cover everywhere I went as if I had something to do with it.

Goodreads summarizes the story as follows:

Sisters Natalie and Alice Kessle
Aug 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dale Harcombe
I was looking forward to reading this as I‘d heard a bit about it. While the story was interesting and the prose at times was well written, even beautiful at times, ultimately I was left somewhat dissatisfied. This was one of those books that was interesting enough to not give up on and to keep reading to see where it was going, yet not that interesting that I couldn’t wait to get back to it. Largely for me I think the man problem was the characters. Even though, they were all well drawn, the pr ...more
Mar 25, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
Though well-written with an interesting premise, The Gravity of Birds ultimately feels average and unremarkable.

In the summer of 1963, famous painter Thomas Bayber meets two sisters, Natalie and Alice, and the lives of all three change forever. Decades later in 2007, Thomas tasks a friend with finding the two sisters and two of his paintings they own, all of whom have disappeared. Told in both 2007 and various times in the past, the story slowly unravels the truth of what happened between Thoma
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is a reminder of why I am stingy with five star ratings. It is because I save them for the very, very best books, ones that leave a lasting, unforgettable impression. In the summer of 1963, sisters Alice and Natalie are book-ending the first blush of womanhood. Alice has just entered her teens and Natalie is barely looking back upon her teen-aged years. It is the summer when, at a lakeside cottage, each of them will encounter a neighboring artist several years older than them, Thomas. ...more
Oct 17, 2013 rated it liked it
The Gravity of Birds by Tracy Guzeman is a very typical book – the plot and writing are both typical, as is the progression. There was little to separate it from the rest in terms of quirkiness or creativity. This doesn’t necessarily make it bad, just something that you might want to be prepared for.

Alice is the protagonist, so a lot of The Gravity of Birds, both in the past and the present, is told from her point of view. Alice is gullible and constantly self-pitying, so she isn’t exactly someo
Beau North
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
No spoilers but vague references to plot points. This was an emotional one for me - my mother suffers from the same disease as Alice, and this book really made me think about what Alice calls "the shame of her diminishment." This book was heartbreaking, the mystery unraveled slowly enough that I was able to put the two big pieces into place well ahead of their reveal, but it was the smaller, emotional revelations that were truly the soul of this book. Natalie's motivations, Alice realizing for t ...more
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Around the Year i...: The Gravity of Birds, by Tracy Guzeman 3 22 Apr 26, 2016 04:38AM  
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“Before too much longer I’ll forget her minute imperfections. That’s what you end up missing the most, those little faults. They burrow under your skin. Become endearing in retrospect.” 30 likes
“The older I get, the less I enjoy the presence of other people.” 10 likes
More quotes…