The Fairy Wren is a contemporary fantasy set in Australia, where Paul, a bookseller, struggles to juggle attention from a strange bird, a shady best friend, an Italian runaway and a missing ex-wife, all the while struggling to cling to a long-buried dream.
From the moment a fairy wren drops his lost wedding ring at his feet, Paul realises there's more magic to the world than he thought...
When Paul Fischer receives a strange phone call asking for help, from a woman who might be his estranged wife Rachel, he’s drawn into a mysterious search that threatens not only his struggling bookstore, but long-buried dreams too...
Unfortunately, the only help comes from a shady best friend, an Italian runaway and a strange blue fairy wren that seems to be trying to tell him something – yet the further he follows the clues it leaves the less sense the very world seems to make. Is he on the verge of a magical, beautiful discovery or at the point of total disaster?
The Goodreads description doesn't do Ashley Capes or his novel justice when it places the book in the fantasy genre: this is very definitely magic realism. Nor is it the sort of cosy magic realism I first took it to be. The novel (especially the second half) has a darkness about it which means that the ending is not pat or completely feelgood.
The magic comes mainly from the fairy wren, which lives up to its name. As a Brit I did not realize until I googled it that the fairy wren is a real bird species in Australia. The book is set in the realistic setting of small-town Australia with all the local politics and personality clashes of small towns anywhere.
The central character Paul isn't perfect. In fact he is the sort of person you like whilst being frustrated with. Self-pitying and at time irresponsible, he makes some morally dubious decisions, especially when helping out his shady best friend. This adds to the uncertainty and suspense of the novel. I kept thinking - he's not going to get away with this. Whether he does or not, I will not divulge here. You will just have to read the book.
One bugbear of mine (which I know isn't universally shared) is that Paul is a bookshop owner and a struggling one as well. I understand why authors have a tendency to write about bookshops and their owners, but please isn't there some other profession that central characters can have?
The Fairy Wren is an enjoyable read, which keeps you guessing until the end.
I received this book from the author in return for a fair review.