book review, historical fiction

Review: More Miracle Than Bird by Alice Miller

 

More Miracle Than Bird  by Alice Miller tells the true story of Georgie Hyde-Lees, who at the age of 25, married famous Irish poet W.B. Yeats (then 52.) Miller’s narrative focuses on Georgie working as a nurse in London during WWI. While trying to strike it out on her own at the soldier’s hospital, Georgie is also drawn to the artistic, literary, and bohemian circle of friends through whom she meets the aging Yeats. Georgie quickly becomes infatuated with him, obsessed beyond logic due to her naivety. She follows his life, moulds her own around his and his interests–even joining the Order of the Golden Dawn. Georgie holds Yeats on a pedastel, but half the time she doesn’t seem to know why. In fact, during her close encounters with him she errs on the side of disgust. She yearns to catch his attention, to enchant him, yet her awkward nature can never penetrate his world.

Meanwhile, Georgie forms a friendship with a wounded soldier, Lieutenant Thomas Pike. Miller gives us a few random chapters from Pike’s perspective, however, his storyline fizzles and the reader is left wondering why the author thought to include chapters from his pov to begin with. The only reason I can surmise is that Thomas represents what Georgie’s life could have been. Miller teases us with the alternate life Georgie could take, however, both character and author never give that road serious consideration (and in turn, nor the reader.) Why include this subplot at all if more wasn’t made of it?

While the story was engaging and well-written, More Miracle Than Bird is one of those books where a lot of small things happen, but nothing really seems to happen overall (i.e. the stakes never seem high enough for substantial narrative or character arc.) Georgie remains static, if a smidge matured by the end in her learning to (in my reading of it) manipulate Yeats’ affections via Occultist beliefs. She never seems to form her own identity, as it is wrapped up in Yeats. Perhaps she’s content to live in his shadow, but we never really get an inkling of that way of thinking. The reader is often left to question Georgie’s choices (frustratingly so,) as well as wonder why she chooses the life she does when she seems repelled by it 90% of the time.

Grade: B-

 

More Miracle Than Bird will be released in the US on June 2, 2020.