From the famed halls of the American Museum of Natural History to the opulent parties of Manhattan’s Gilded Age elite to a muddy dig site that may be hiding a groundbreaking discovery, Birdie & Jay is a captivating historical fiction novel based on true events that will take listeners on an unforgettable journey.
Birdie, a young woman born into wealth, has a deep passion for art and science which leads her to a position painting landscape habitats at the new Museum of Natural History. Her mother—who sees this pursuit as a distraction from her daughter’s obligatory society functions—tries to forbid her from the museum. But Birdie’s dedication only grows once she meets Jay, an intelligent Irishman who’s yanked himself up by his dusty bootstraps to join the museum’s elite team of researchers.
Captivated by each other despite their class differences, Birdie and Jay steal away to Central Park each day, where they discuss the work of Darwin and other forces shaping their changing world. When the two are pulled apart for the summer—Jay to an expedition in England that could make or break his career, and Birdie to the mansions of Newport toward more acceptable suitors—both of them will have to fight for what’s right, and for a chance to be together.
A rich blend of the past, passion, and scientific truth-seeking adventure, Birdie & Jay is a powerful story that will transport listeners to an era of both extraordinary risk and glittering opportunity.
Ella Joy Olsen lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, a charming town tucked at the base of the massive Wasatch Mountains. She is the mom of three (young adult) kids, the mama of two dogs, and the wife of one patient husband.
Her novels include: the Audible Original BIRDIE & JAY, the Historical Novel Society Editors’ Choice ROOT, PETAL,THORN, and the 15 Bytes Finalist WHERE THE SWEET BIRD SINGS.
She teaches creative writing through Lifelong Learning at the University of Utah and she is part-owner of Salty City Writing Workshops, where she mentors writers and facilitates writing retreats. Ella is represented by Rachel Ekstrom at Folio Literary Management.
Set in New York City during the Gilded Age, Birdie and Jay are from two totally different worlds but that doesn't stop an instant connection from forming between them. Even though Birdie was born into wealth and Jay is an immigrant struggling to find his way, they have many common interests. Will they be able to overcome their upbringings (and Birdie's parents) so they can enjoy a future together?
This was a light, romantic respite during these troubled times, and I'd recommend it for fans of historical fiction, especially if you have toured and loved the American Museum of Natural History.
Birdie and Jay by Ella Olsen is Ella's best yet! An Audible Original that is a 5🌟 performance and the story is a beautiful love romance tucked into the suspense and history of the Gilded Age and trying to find the missing link!
Very disappointing book. The plot, setting, & dilemmas promised an interesting & moving story, but ignorance and, worse, dismissal of the socio-cultural realities of that day made this a shallow read. Example: The maid loses her job because of the main character’s selfish behavior, but no problem, Daddy finds her a new job, so everything is hunky dory. The gritty reality of employment for servants in that setting is ignored, yet servants are central figures in the book. Shallow characters & lacking in depth.
I’ve loved all of Ella Joy Olsen’s books and was eagerly anticipating this one, especially as a lover of the Museum of Natural History. Olsen, once again, delivers a perfectly crafted story with beautiful prose and details that bring the reader (listener in this case) deep into the world of Birdie and Jay. I may have even developed a slight crush on Jay.
This is a historical romance with likable characters and a fun plot, although not without a few holes. I was a little disappointed in the ending, but it was sufficient. Eva Kaminsky and Gerard Doyle share the narration of the audiobook and did a great job. No sex, no foul language, no violence.
Early 1900s, New York. What’s bigger news than the Titanic’s sinking? Finding Darwin’s missing link. Birdie’s family plans to finance the expedition for the Museum of Natural History, with Jay as the museum’s representative. For Birdie, she’s more excited by an invitation to help paint the museum’s bird habitats. Birdie’s mother, though, refuses to have her daughter seen as a working girl and forbids it, so Birdie creates opportunities to sneak away. Despite their different social classes, Birdie and Jay are drawn together like magnets. Keeping their relationship secret, Birdie plans to get through her season without becoming engaged. But when a persistent Austrian count begins courting her and Jay is sent overseas on to the dig site, their new-found love will be put to the test.
Readers are welcomed into the extravagant lifestyles of New York’s wealthiest citizens while also digging for bones in Piltdown, East Sussex, searching for Darwin’s missing link. Opulent homes and outdoor landscapes are well described. The narration switches between Birdie and Jay with two different Audible narrators. Gerard Doyle’s Irish accent brings out Jay’s personality as well as his cultural roots. Eva Kaminsky has a wonderful ability to create distinct voices for both males and females.
While pursuing their passions in the museum, Birdie and Jay are engaging characters. Jay’s work and his investigation into suspect activities surrounding the Piltdown dig are immensely intriguing. However, as Birdie pines over Jay and reluctantly spends the summer with her family, she becomes a listless narrator. The story lacks a counterbalance of levity as situations get more serious for our main characters, slowing the plot’s momentum. While I greatly enjoyed the natural history aspects, the romance feels slightly rushed and the characters lack depth when they aren’t in the museum.
Oh, I really wanted/needed to love this novel. After reading to many books about "real" troubles in today's world, I have been longing for a bit of historical fiction combined with a bit of romance to carry me away for a few hours. This novel had potential. The historical parts of the book were terribly interesting to me. The romance between Birdie and Jay also had potential, but I fear the author chose to spent too much time on creating a twisty plot with an evil Count and a social-climing mother while failing to really develop the character of Birdie. Not only did Birdie get cheated by being born a female during the Gilded Age, but she got cheated by the author who created her. Heck, even the lovers' letters were rarely shared with the reader. Was I the only one left wondering what exactly fueled their passion? Good looks? Absence? Forbidden fruit?
I really enjoyed the archeology part of the book, which was based on the real search for the "missing link" and the fraudulent discovery of the Piltdown Man. The controversy over evolution's challenge to religion was very interesting. This science served as the backdrop for the unlikely romance between Birdie, a daughter of privilege during the Gilded Age, and Jay, an Irish immigrant trying to be accepted as a scientist. Issues of classism and racism were also addressed as integral parts of the story.
Diving into the world of Birdie & Jay will have you exploring the age of scientific discovery and exploration during the early 20th century in New York and England and introduce you to the controversial discovery of the Piltdown Man of 1912. Set against this fascinating historical backdrop is the love story of Beatrice and Jay. This Audible original is such a fun read (listen?) and had me finding longer loops to walk the dogs on just to extend my listening time.
The historical side of this book was interesting. But the author, in her desire to show the reader how it felt to be a woman in the upper echelons of NY society does such a good job, that I felt a sense of dread when Birdie's character took center stage. Other than the two title characters, all the others are 2-dimentional and uninteresting....their main purposes seem to be oppressive or just annoying. And the ending was completely implausible and rushed.
Is it really “reading” when I listen to it only? It doesn’t really feel like it. In fact I think I would have liked this book much more...the history of it, the social commentary, the story if I had been reading it instead. As it was I “skimmed” through the second half to get the gist. I don’t feel like I missed anything and I wasn’t surprised by anything except maybe a happier ending than was likely.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
We really didn't learn anything about Jay's family. His siblings are referred to but they don't have names, his parents are complete stereotypes, his father is a hard working immigrant and his mother bakes soda bread. We don't even know if they write to each other but we get all the correspondence between Birdie and Jay. I felt like Jay could be more fleshed out because we hear everyting about Birdie's family and friends. Oh, that reminds me Jay has no friends! He only exists at work and her house.
Had difficulty getting into the story. Found it more or less formulaic even tho based on actual happenings. Very difficult to believe women actually were so submissive in the early years. In spite of all, we have come a long, long way. I actually listened to this book on Audible. Not sure I could have stuck with it if I had been reading the book.
I liked it. Piltdown man and birds. What is not to like? It was a good story and I think I need to read more by this author. I will sprinkle them in with my murder mysteries that are sometimes a bit dark.
This is a gem of a story, and I highly recommend it if you love romance. I could not stop listening and am sorry that I finished it. I am aleady missing Birdie and Jay. One of the best audios I have heard this year.
I enjoy the Victorian era type reads. It always strikes me how snobbish and confining the rich/nobles were. It would be so oppressive for us romantics to live during that time - that marriage was all about bloodline and money instead of love.
I was looking for a light, easy read as a short distraction, and this definitely was light and easy! I love sappy romance, so I enjoyed it. Definitely don't read it if you are looking for a masterpiece, but it is cute and light and sappy.
Such a great listen/read about the forbidden romance between an archaeologist and a debutante. The feelings between the main characters were so raw and palpable that I couldn't help rooting for them. I truly enjoyed this one.
Historical romance, I think more focused towards the YA crowd. I expected a bit more, I like my heroines a little more independent, and I thought the romance was a little rushed and some problems resolved too easily.
I really enjoyed this story and characters, and the audio performances were fantastic. The American Museum of Natural History is already one of my favorite places on the planet, but this book makes me want to visit it again pronto.