The Girl and the Sunbird
by Rebecca Stonehill
Page Count: 375
Release Date: June 17, 2016
Format: Kindle ARC
How got: ARC copy via NetGalley
First attention getter: forbidden romance
A haunting, heartbreaking and unforgettable novel of a woman married to a man she can never love, and drawn to another who will capture her heart forever…
When eighteen year old Iris Johnson is forced to choose between marrying the frightful Lord Sidcup or a faceless stranger,Jeremy Lawrence, in a far-off land, she bravely decides on the latter.
Accompanied by her chaperone, Miss Logan, Iris soon discovers a kindred spirit who shares her thirst for knowledge. As they journey from Cambridgeshire to East Africa, Iris’s eyes are opened to a world she never knew existed beyond the comforts of her family home.
But when Iris meets Jeremy, she realizes in a heartbeat that they will never be compatible. He is cold and cruel, spending long periods of time on hunting expeditions and leaving Iris alone.
Determined to make the best of her new life, Iris begins to adjust to her surroundings; the windswept plains of Nairobi, and the delightful sunbirds that visit her window every day. And when she meets Kamau, a local school teacher, Iris finds her calling, assisting him to teach the local children English.
Kamau is everything Jeremy is not. He is passionate, kind and he occupies Iris’s every thought. She must make a choice, but if she follows her heart, the price she must pay will be devastating.
Star Rating - 3.5
Any tale of forbidden romance will always draw me in; this one was no different. The author creates a great relationship and historical story behind it. Yet, she falls a bit short when it comes to some mannerisms and motives of her characters. I felt they were off balance with the times or just off altogether.
The history really blew me away on this one. Of course, history on any region of the world with which I’m unfamiliar will make me squirm in happiness. From a rigid British colony in 1910s to the rumblings of the Mau Mau Uprising in the 1950s, the reader watches as Kenya develops into the modern nation we know today. Told from the point of view of four individuals (a white British girl, an Indian tailor, an African man, and a mixed race man), the author gives a well-rounded analysis of Kenya’s growth from many perspectives.
Of course, it’s the forbidden romance that initially drew me. A relationship between an African man and white woman during this time, in this locale, definitely is going to raise some eyebrows. As the story proves, it also has dire consequences for the parties involved. Yet, the chemistry and draw between Kamau and Iris makes you root for the couple even knowing that it can’t end well. Their romance is gentle, sweet, and caring; it proves that relationships can develop across cultural barriers given the right personalities.
Now those mannerisms and motives I mentioned… I felt that the author could be a bit skewed or judgmental when it came to her characters. The biggest offender was Jonathan’s and Iris’ arrangement. I can’t see that going as smoothly as it did; Jonathan would have put up more of a fight or demanded more information on why Iris asked it of him if we were going for realism here. I also felt that Mr. Lawrence might have gotten a bit of a harsh rep. Yes, he’s a crude, self-centered, heavy-handed boor who views the world through British colonial glasses. Yes, he was a horrible husband for Iris and her personality. But would I classify him as cruel?? Eh… I wouldn’t. He acted and reacted realistically, if unemphatically, in my eyes.
Kamau and Irish are somewhat of a toss-up. Kamau sometimes came off as a paragon, unrealistically. He’s gentle, passionate, sweet, intelligent, and all Iris could ask for. Iris came off as immature (maybe it was her young age of 18). Given the harsh circumstances she experienced and endured, she grew up a bit. Yet, I found her hard to connect with in the beginning until about the last half of the book. For all that, though, I liked them well enough to get behind their stories and romance. I could empathize with them and their struggles.
For a story that had shadowy character motives and personalities that could read too unrealistic, I still enjoyed this look at a country finding itself, forming into the nation we know today. The main romance kept me engaged with their sweet emotions. So, all in all, this is a pleasant read; I wouldn’t say no to another work by this author.
Note: Book received for free from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.