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The Guardian On “All the Little Bird-Hearts”

All the Little Bird-Hearts by Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow review – a mesmerising debut

Longlisted for the Booker prize, this is a darkly vivacious tale of family, fraught friendship and neurodivergence

By James Smart

Viktoria Lloyd-Barlow’s Booker-longlisted debut begins on a bright, cool summer’s morning in the 1980s. A woman called Sunday whispers a Sicilian proverb, admires the fields that rise above her Lake District home and notices a stranger lying on next door’s lawn. This is Vita, her smart, inky clothes hanging on her elegant frame, her hands raised skywards, “as though waiting for expected gifts”. All the Little Bird-Hearts is a sharp, watchful account of the intense friendship that builds between these two very different women, and its fraught aftermath.

Confident, charming, privileged Vita has moved to Sunday’s small town from London. Sunday, like Lloyd-Barlow, is autistic. Social interactions perplex her, and she is happier calming her twitching hands in the “dark and silky soil” of the greenhouses where she works. She believes there is “a universal code to be broken, a pattern to be understood”, and uses two books – a 1950s guide to etiquette and a book of Sicilian folk tales – to navigate life, often repeating their lessons in company. She favours white food, cannot read clocks, and turns down any drink that is not cold and fizzy. Read the full review at the Guardian.

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