Allen & Unwin, Australia, Author, AWW2016, Book review, crime/thriller, Fiction, Nicole Trope, Publisher, Setting

‘Hush, Little Bird’ by Nicole Trope

Hush Little Bird by Nicole Trope

Fiction – Kindle edition; Allen & Unwin; 384 pages; 2015.

The publisher Allen & Unwin bill Australian writer Nicole Trope as the “queen of domestic suspense” — and I can see why.

Hush, Little Bird — her fifth novel, but the first one I’ve read by her — is a brilliantly told tale about two women from opposite sides of the social spectrum whose lives are thrust together when both are sent to prison for two separate but shocking crimes.

Birdy is a young women with learning difficulties, who is struggling to raise a daughter on her own; while Rose is a rich woman in her 50s, who was once married to a famous television personality. Now in a low-security prison — “a halfway house between that and the real world” —  Rose works in the garden tending the plants and Birdy is in charge of an aviary filled with zebra finches and Gouldian finches. (As an aside, the bird on the front cover is neither species.)

The pair would seem to have nothing in common, yet they were once neighbours when Birdy was a little girl. Rose fails to recognise Birdy as an adult and is unaware of their connection. She’s also unaware that Birdy harbours a desire to do her harm, and the book’s nail-biting narrative hinges on whether or not Birdy’s dastardly plan ever comes to fruition. It makes for a rather fast-paced and compelling read.

Alternate narrators

The story, which is highly reminiscent of Harriet Lane’s Her, is told from both women’s viewpoints, with Birdy and Rose taking it in turns to narrate alternate chapters. This allows us to get a glimpse of their mindsets — Birdy, who has been labelled stupid her whole life, is aware of her limitations but is also a lot sharper than many might give her credit, and Rose, married at 16 to a handsome actor, has spent her whole life subsumed by someone else’s personality.

Their individual back stories are slowly fleshed out so that over the course of the novel the reader begins to piece together the puzzle of each character’s troubled life.

But this isn’t just your average run-of-the-mill tale of suspense: Trope deals with some important and  contemporary themes, which lends the story some weight (albeit with a slightly voyeuristic twist), and which could well have been lifted from today’s news. For instance, Rose’s husband Simon, who once hosted a children’s talent show in the 1970s, is accused decades later of horrible crimes against the children who appeared on screen (think Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris here in the UK):

When the second woman came forward to accuse Simon of touching her when she auditioned for My Kid Can . . ., we waited for the interest to die down as quickly as it had after the first woman. But it didn’t. This time the media grabbed hold of the story and it began to appear everywhere, and then more women came forward with the same allegations. Articles appeared in newspapers and on the internet. Websites were set up to condemn Simon, and an equal number of them were set up to support him. Journalists began to call the house, first during the day and then at odd hours, hoping we would pick up. We had to change our phone numbers. News vans took up residence outside the house. Letters and emails arrived, some wishing Simon dead and others wishing him luck.

Shocks and surprises

Despite the fact I’d guessed most of the major plot “reveals” before they happened, it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of this entertaining book which held me in its sway for two rather intense days and nights. Trope really knows how to keep her readers on tenterhooks by withholding information and then delivering it in such a way that the narrative seems constantly full of little shocks and surprises.

And while it revolves around child sexual abuse, Hush, Little Bird is never gratuitous; in fact, the subject is handled with great sensitivity and, dare I say it, wisdom. This is a compassionate, intelligent and provocative read; it’s also a stunning one about silence, lies and the secrets we keep.

This is my first book for #ReadingAustralia2016 and my first for #AWW2016.

The author is widely published, so UK and US readers should have no trouble getting hold of this one.

17 thoughts on “‘Hush, Little Bird’ by Nicole Trope”

    1. Yes, but as I point out in my review, Stu, it’s the wrong species of bird entirely! (Getting these kinds of details wrong would lose me my job, but in book publishing it just doesn’t seem to matter.)


  1. I don’t read many thrillers …..but then nearly always enjoy them when I do . Never heard of this writer before and the plot sounds intriguing . An easy read but with some food for thought ? I will look out for it.


    1. “An easy read but with some food for thought”: that’s a perfect description of this book, Helen. I really enjoyed this one — and it cost less than £2 as part of a Kindle sale at the end of the year.


    1. How funny, because the cover is exactly why I picked up this book (I have a thing about birds). I didn’t know the author, either, so was rather delighted to discover she’s Australian. It’s a great read, and one that feels particularly contemporary. Who hasn’t wondered how wives deal with allegations of “inappropriate sexual behaviour” against their husbands, for instance? Or what happens to those who’ve been abused but are too timid to come forward?


  2. Seems there’s much to like about this one, Kim… when in the right mood I love fast-paced, nail biting compelling reads and also love dual narratives too so will look out for it. The premise of getting closer to, and giving voice to both these women who appear to have been ‘labelled’ appeals too.


  3. Really enjoyed this – very apt with last years awful revelations. Thought it was handled with great sensitivity. I am looking forward to seeing how your Aussie challenge develops. I have done exactly the same thing- bought piles of books back from Oz and forgetting about them when I return. Very interested in how you feel about Christos Tsiolkas’s Merciless Gods. I spent the whole time reading with my mouth wide open in astonishment – its incredibly shocking but I couldn’t put it down….good luck and looking forward to learning about some new home grown authors.


    1. Thanks for your lovely comment… assume you are an expat too? Are you in London or elsewhere?

      I’m looking forward to reading Merciless Gods… read a few Christos Tsiolkas’ novels in the past and he’s never shy about what he writes, is he? His debut (Loaded) was jaw-dropping in places!


I'd love to know what you think, so please leave a comment below

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.