Some books are special and, as The Song of the Stork by Stephan Collishaw is one such book, I’m thrilled to be sharing my review as part of its launch celebrations. The Song of the Stork was published on 1st March 2017 by Legend Press and is available for purchase here.
The Song of the Stork
Fifteen-year-old Yael is on the run. The Jewish girl seeks shelter from the Germans on the farm of the village outcast. Aleksei is mute and solitary, but as the brutal winter advances, he reluctantly takes her in and a delicate relationship develops.
As her feelings towards Aleksei change, the war intrudes and Yael is forced to join a Jewish partisan group fighting in the woods.
Torn apart and fighting for her life, The Song of the Stork is Yael’s story of love, hope and survival. It is the story of one woman finding a voice as the voices around her are extinguished.
My Review of The Song of the Stork
On the run from the Germans, Jewish Yael can’t begin to know what else life can throw at her.
I’m not sure I know where to begin to review The Song of the Stork. It’s a relatively short book with quite a bit of white space to its pages and yet it took me a couple of days to read because I wanted to savour every word and nuance. Equally, the intensity of the story is so overwhelming I needed to come up for air as I found I was holding my breath as I read and wondered what reverberating emotion would hit me next. The Song of the Stork is an outstanding read.
What struck me most was the quality of the language. It is simple and often quite matter of fact in the telling of the story, but that is such a finely tuned counterpoint to the horrors that Yael has witnessed that it stunned me as I read. This pared down style weaves a magical spell on the reader.
The metaphor of the stork is incredibly well handled. It’s impossible to explain without spoiling the read, but the name, the symbolism, the practicalities of a stork’s song all serve to bind this almost claustrophobic read into a unity that is almost overwhelming. I loved the literature and poetry behind the narrative too. I couldn’t understand the Hebrew and Yiddish words, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment at all. Indeed, they added to the sense of bewilderment of a world in melt down and gave me the sense of otherness that Jewish Yael and mute Aleksei must have felt in this Second World War setting.
The characterisation is beautiful. The relationship between Aleksei and Yael is depicted with a delicay of touch so that there is a real sense of calm and beauty as well as intensity. It felt almost voyeuristic to read about them at times.
The Song of the Stork is a terrifying portrait of what humanity has been and what we might still become. It should be depressing and yet it is like a beacon of hope in a dysfunctional world. I think that, in a world of noise, The Song of the Stork is quiet perfection. I truly loved it.
About Stephan Collishaw
Stephan Collishaw was brought up on a Nottingham council estate and failed all of his O’levels. His first novel The Last Girl (2003) was chosen by the Independent on Sunday as one of its Novels of the Year. In 2004 Stephan was selected as one of the British Council’s 20 best young British novelists. His brother is the renowned artist, Mat Collishaw. After a 10-year writing hiatus, The Song of the Stork is Stephan’s highly anticipated third novel. Stephan now works as a teacher in Nottingham, having also lived and worked abroad in Lithuania and Mallorca, where his son Lukas was born.
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