The Language of Birds by Jill Dawson

Book Review

language of birds

Description from inside cover

In the summer of 1974, Mandey River arrives in London for a fresh start.  Spirited and attractive, she plans to work as a nanny and have fun: go out on the town with her good friend Rosemany, forget all she’s given for the sake of respectability, maybe even meet a man she can trust for once.

Mandy soon gets a job looking after the children of one Lady Morven, only to find herself in the midst of a bitter custody battle and the house being watched.  Lady Morven claims her estranged husband has a violent streak.  Lord Morven declares her mentally unstable and unfit to be a mother.

As Mandy tries to shield her young charges from harm, Rosemany watches from the wings – an odd girl with her own painful past and a rare gift.  But this time, she misreads the signs.

Inspired by the infamous Lord Lucan affair, Jill Dawson explores a shocking murder and it’s roots from the unusual perspective of the ‘lovely young nanny’, who was largely overlooked.  Bringing 1970s’ society to vivid life, this compelling, thought-provoking novels shows that then as now, women’s voices all too often went unheard.


My Thoughts

In this fictional story we read a’ re-telling’ of the murder of Lord Lucan’s nanny Sandra Rivett.  Set in 1974 we meet Mandy (Sandra) a young woman desperate to get away from her past and home life in rural Cambridgeshire.  She comes down to London to start her new job with hopes of a fresh start and with her friend Rosemany, a Norland Nanny, who helped her get the position, is keen to get on with her life.  She has however walked into a very troubled household and into the middle of a divorce and custody battle between her two employers, Lord and Lady Morven (Lord and Lady Lucan).  She finds 2 children scared, a wife struggling desperately with her mental health and a husband who has hired an private detectives to watch the house.

This book is a wonderfully written and engaging tale, but also a lovingly told retelling of the true life murder of Lord Lucan’s Nanny Sandra Rivett.  The case of Lord Lucan has become ubiquitous but from the view point of his disappearance rather than the death of a young woman and this book, although fiction, recounts it from the perceptive of the nanny.  I enjoyed the characters and warmed to Mandy instantly. I liked the many details within the book of 1970s’ London, Norland Nannys and of the life style of the rich at that time and also felt desperately sorry for the two young children who are described very vividly.

I had read A Double Life by Flynn Berry last year and had enjoyed it very much, so was keen to read this too.  Although a very different type of read and from a different perspective I also enjoyed this and would recommend both books.

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