Publisher: Legend Press
Publication date: 1st March 2017
Distinctive, memorable and poignant. How such a slim volume can pack this much emotional punch, I have no idea. Its vivid, life-shattering horrors seized a little more of my heart with every passing chapter.
During these uncertain times the contours of people’s bodies changed in tandem with the landscape; the deep ridges ploughed by German tanks mirror rib cages covered by streamers of shapeless rags, as persecuted human beings are reduced to scarecrows shivering in the fields they may have once owned.
Through exceptional and sensitive narration the unbearable grief of what is to come will stir your soul. The Song of the Stork will drag you into the thicket to crouch alongside Yael, a mere fifteen year old, alone and stricken by hunger and fear as war tightened its steely grip. And yet, even when all other doors have been firmly closed to her she found the courage to prospect for one that may be open.
Under circumstances less gruelling than these it would be difficult to conjure optimism, but to convey the infinite joy of finding shelter in a chicken coop is the work of a truly gifted author. The initial reception Yael received from the owner of the coop is neither welcoming, nor hostile. Aleksei simply shows her a pamphlet as a stark warning for those breaking the law by helping the Jewish community. This non-verbal communication is his first tentative step of acknowledging her presence.
Yael has heard the rumours of this young man, of course she has. People mocked him for never uttering a word anyone, saying he was crazy and should be left alone. Witnessing the thoughtful and perceptive progression of how he adapted to the disturbance of his guest’s unexpected arrival was a pure triumph.
In a ravaged world where tomorrow may never arrive, you would be forgiven for mistaking the modest luxuries of having a floor to sleep on, or having a shallow bath of warm water to relieve your itching skin, for security or even love. As an agreeable routine lays down its roots, it is quickly followed by the first shoots of fondness which miraculously flourishes into something profoundly beautiful. But this humble, isolated life is not free from danger as unforgiving enemies continually threaten to force their way in.
The Song of the Stork captures the very essence of survivors longing for the wind to change and bring whispers of hope with it. Until then they embrace the conviction to not only salvage what remains of life but to live it, however challenging that may prove to be. An extraordinary read. Truly extraordinary.
(My thanks to Legend Press for providing a copy of this title. It is my absolute pleasure to provide this unbiased review.)
(Courtesy of Amazon UK)
‘An elegantly crafted, beautifully written novel about love, survival and hope against all the odds’ William Ryan
‘Tightly written and suspenseful… a darkly compassionate fable of human endurance in absolute extremity’ Stevie Davies
‘…a dark jewel that holds up for examination the proximity of terror and savagery to innocence and love’ Guy Kennaway
‘Stephan Collishaw takes your hand and leads you into a world of tragic beauty, inspiring strength and delicate kindness in the midst of horror’ Aistė Diržiūtė
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.
(Courtesy of publisher’s website)
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.