A Bird in Winter by Louise Doughty

One day, in the middle of a meeting with her colleagues in their Birmingham office, Heather just ups and leaves, picking up her go-bag on the way. What follows is part spy thriller, part travelogue and part trip down memory lane. It is essentially a journey, both literally and figuratively. It is refreshing that the main character is a woman in her fifties – she is capable, fit and can take care of herself. She is also vulnerable just because she is a woman travelling alone. Louise Doughty gives us a realistic depiction of life on the run (not as glamorous as it is in the movies) where Heather has to be constantly vigilant and can never trust anyone.

As she makes her escape, her past life is gradually revealed, along with the possible reason for her sudden flight. She has a lot of time on her hands and ponders what has led her to this point. I really enjoyed the atmospheric descriptions of the places she was travelling through, some of which I recognised – Scotland, Orkney, Shetland, Norway and Iceland. In my view, it is only a matter of time before A Bird in Winter ends up on the big screen.

The marketing department might have given a slightly false impression of this book; it is not an ‘action-packed’ thriller, but a much more nuanced piece of writing. Heather aka Bird is an unusual character, not particularly likeable, and her story is compelling. I have not read anything by Louise Doughty before, but will certainly investigate her back catalogue having been really impressed by the quality of her writing. Thanks to Faber & Faber and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.