Released just a few day ago on 2 March 2023, the debut novel from Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow is such a poignant, frank and beautiful read.
Set in 1988 it is the insightful story of Sunday, a divorcee, a single-mother who tries to live a quiet, ordered life in a society that struggles to accept her ‘funny little ways‘. Sunday is autistic, and as an adult finds it a ‘small but real joy’ that she can live by her ordered routines “without being told I am making a show of myself. That I am hysterical, attention-seeking and to be ignored…”
Sunday lives in the house that she grew up in. She lost her parents and sister as a teenager and avoided having to live in the local children’s home by her neighbour who acted as her guardian. Although the house is hardly unchanged from her childhood, Sunday now lives there with 16-year-old daughter Dolly.
As Sunday loves her daughter with an all-consuming love and regards Dolly as much more important than the suffering she will encounter if she fails to stick to her ordered routines, Sunday sometimes makes small allowances. For example, on quiet days Sunday can only eat white foods. Yet for her daughter she sometimes concentrates on overriding her natural behaviours and sometimes eats pale, non-white food such as poached salmon.
With Dolly on the cusp of adulthood and finding her own way in life in which she is slightly tiring of her mother’s need to eat only white food on certain days, Sunday is feeling she is on the brink of loosing her beautiful daughter. Yet when the glamourous, socially unorthodox Vita moves in next door with her charming husband Rollo, Sunday begins to feel an unusual yet happy sense of acceptance even though Vita seems to disrupt all of her rules. This sense of happiness and acceptance is further enhanced with Dolly also enjoying Vita and all that the glamourous neighbour brings to her life.
Yet is Vita as accepting as Sunday initially believes? Does she want the one thing that Sunday has but she hasn’t – Dolly as a daughter?
All the Little-Bird Hearts is such an authentic and powerful novel with Sunday a true literary heroine that in her own quiet way, refuses to be dismissed. Like her protagonist, Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow is autistic. She has a PhD in Creative Writing and has presented her doctoral research internationally, most recently speaking at Harvard College on autism and literary narrative. I can’t wait to read more from Viktoria.
Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to the blog tour of this moving, unforgettable novel. To follow the blog tour in full, please see below.