A Thousand Paper Birds

  • by Tor Udall
  • Narrated by Gavin Osborn
  • 9 hrs and 10 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

An intimate portrait of five inextricably linked lives, spanning one calendar year at Kew Gardens - an exquisite, strange and beautiful debut for fans of Alice Sebold, Curtis Sittenfeld, Barbara Kingsolver and Audrey Niffenegger.
After the sudden death of his wife, Audrey, Jonah sits on a bench in Kew Gardens, trying to reassemble the shattered pieces of his life. Chloe, shaven-headed and abrasive, finds solace in the origami she meticulously folds. But when she meets Jonah, her carefully constructed defences threaten to fall. Milly, a child quick to laugh, freely roams Kew, finding beauty everywhere she goes. But where is her mother, and where does she go when the gardens are closed? Harry's purpose is to save plants from extinction. Quiet and enigmatic, he longs for something - or someone - who will root him more firmly to the earth.
Audrey links these strangers together. As the mystery of her death unravels, the characters journey through the seasons to learn that stories, like paper, can be refolded and reformed. Haunted by songs and origami birds, this novel is a love letter to a garden and a hymn to lost things.


What the Critics Say

"A rich and intricate debut, at once subtle and powerful, intent and reflective, lyrical and visceral, expertly cultivating an abundance of life from all that remains after death." (James Hannah, author of The A to Z of You and Me)
"An extraordinary, enchanting book. Writing as fine and precise as a botanical sketch, gorgeously arty themes, powerful yet fragile imagery and a brilliant story - this is a book to love and treasure." (Tracy Rees, author of Amy Snow)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

A triumph of a book

A story of loss, grief, love and letting go. The author is a master wordsmith. Heartbreaking and uplifting. A must read.
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- yvonne tomlin

Loss and grief folded in love and mystery

Music teacher Jonah is stricken with a debilitating sense of loss after the death in a car crash which seems to have been suicide of his beloved wife Audrey, who was herself mired in grief following miscarriages. It sounds depressing, but Jonah’s aching ‘corrosiveness of absence’ is created with such sharp insight and in such delicate poetic language that it is almost uplifting as he struggles to re-join the everyday world, wishing that he had recorded Audrey’s breathing just so that he could hear it again.

Kew Gardens, loved by all the characters, with its carefully nurtured trees and green promise of regeneration forms the backdrop to their intricately interwoven lives. The main human focus is the poignant love relationships between Jonah and his wife, and between widowed Jonah and Chloe, the origami artist who has the power to heal him. This is so brilliantly created that for me it would have been enough and the magic realism element of the other eventually connected characters didn’t enhance it.

The origami-like folding and re-folding of the narratives is complex and clever but at times clogged and confused. Perhaps that is because audio may not be the best medium for this particular book, even though the narrator is impressively in tune throughout. If I had been reading rather than listening I’d have re-read a striking sentence or phrase to fully appreciate its words, emotion or cadence, or a section of magic realism to pick up more clues.
This is Tor Udall’s first novel (not her first non-fiction work) and a great deal of intelligent ideas, observation and tenderness had gone into the complexities of its writing.

It deserves to be listened to – and read.

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- Rachel Redford

Book Details

  • Release Date: 15-06-2017
  • Publisher: Audible Studios for Bloomsbury