An intimate portrait of five inextricably linked lives, spanning one calendar year at Kew Gardens – an exquisite, strange and beautiful debut for fans of Alice Sebold, Curtis Sittenfeld, Barbara Kingsolver and Audrey Niffenegger
Nothing is set in stone. A bird can be refolded into a boat, a fish, a kimono, or any other extravagant vision. At other times it aches to return to its original folds. The paper begins to fray. It tires, rebels.
Jonah sits on a bench in Kew Gardens, trying to reassemble the shattered pieces of his life following the sudden death of his wife, Audrey.
Chloe, shaven-headed and abrasive, sits by the lake, finding solace in the origami she meticulously folds. But when she meets Jonah, her carefully constructed defences threaten to fall.
Milly, a child quick to laugh, freely roams Kew. But where is her mother and where does she go when the gardens are closed?
Harry's purpose is to save plants from extinction. Quiet and enigmatic, he longs for something – or someone – who will root him more firmly to the earth.
Audrey links these strangers together. As the mystery of her death unravels, the characters journey through the seasons to learn that stories, like paper, can be refolded and reformed.
‘A masterful exploration of love, loss and the healing power of the natural world. Like Max Porter’s Grief is a Thing With Feathers, it uses fable, mystery and a poetic sensibility to get at the nub of loss … Heartbreaking and uplifting in equal measure, it’s a love letter to a garden and a paean to all kinds of imperfect love’ – Observer (see full review)
'Udall has done for Kew what Hardy did for Wessex or Wordsworth for the Lakes ... A Thousand Paper Birds is as rare as redwoods: a novel of astonishing maturity in the hands of a debutant; a young sapling with the splendour of an ancient oak. On page after page of precise, exquisite prose the book seems to hold its breath, as if the slightest sound might awaken the reader from its spell. Love, death, redemption, grief, hope: these are the grandest themes, the big, spreading trees at the centre of the human garden. And, like the tender and talented arborist that she so clearly is, Tor Udall has pruned them to perfection' – Richard Nye, The Richmond Magazine (see full review)
'Absolutely wonderful. It has the emotional integrity of One Day and the complexity and character depth of Cloud Atlas ... An incredible achievement' – Deborah Install, author of A Robot in the Garden
'A rich and intricate debut, at once subtle and powerful, intent and reflective, lyrical and visceral, expertly cultivating an abundance of life from all that remains after death. A beautiful, bountiful book' – James Hannah, author of The A to Z of You and Me
'An extraordinary, enchanting book. Writing as fine and precise as a botanical sketch ... A brilliant story – this is a book to love and treasure' – Tracy Rees, author of Amy Snow
'A delicate and beautiful unfolding of grief, loss, love and the way that lives intersect. Insightful and inventive, this is an enthralling debut' – Ann Morgan, author of Beside Myself
'What a joy it was to read A Thousand Paper Birds, a lovely clockwork of a novel ... May it fly' – Shelley Harris, author of Vigilante
'A beautiful, unexpected and compelling debut from a fully-fledged talent. It's a complete fictional world which drew me in and held me rapt from start to finish' – Sam Bain, co-writer of Peep Show, Fresh Meat and Four Lions
'Magical, memorable and one I will treasure' – Ali Land, author of Good Me, Bad Me
'I've fallen in love with this outstanding, eloquent book. Absolutely one of my favourite debuts of the year. It's sublime. It's one of the most beautiful books I have EVER read. It touches your soul' – Nina Pottell, Books Editor for Prima.
'This is not just a book it is the purest of love songs ... Without doubt, my book of 2017' – The Last Word Book Review (see full review)
'This novel is all about seeing a 'scarred loveliness' in a damaged world' – Psychologies, July 2017
'A moving story as intricate and elegant as the origami birds that Chloe, one of the characters, folds. I loved this whimsical debut novel' – Red Magazine, 50 Of The Best Summer Reads
'Outstanding ... This book is packed with phrases and dialogue that took away my breath, and occasionally brought tears to my eyes. It is so, so intricate, so perfectly balanced. A beautiful novel that should be savoured and treasured, and will be remembered for a long time. Stunning. Just stunning' – Random Things Through My Letterbox (see full review)
'Udall weaves a complex story about the mysterious ways a life can linger, like a scent, and how grief and love can sometimes feel so vast and overwhelming that no earthly landscape can contain them' – Daily Mail
'Poetic and finely wrought, this novel is all about seeing ‘a broken-hearted splendour, a scarred loveliness’ in a damaged world' – The Sunday Express, S Magazine
'A poetic exploration of those most difficult of topics, grief and love, against the backdrop of Kew Gardens . Udall deftly leads the reader through the tangled web of relationships binding each of these four people to Audrey, whose own story comes to be revealed through her diaries' – Scotsman
'Mysterious, ethereal and haunting, this book taunts you with an explanation just out of reach until its delicately crafted, hopeful ending. If you’ve never been to Kew you’ll long to visit' – WI Life Magazine
'A story of death and its aftermath, which lingers long after the last page' – Independent
'A captivating novel. So wise, generous-hearted & beautifully written. I loved it' – Emylia Hall, author of The Book of Summers and The Thousand Lights Hotel
'So eloquent and true that it will leave you gasping in recognition. You will want to quote it to anyone who will listen, and trust me, read out a paragraph and they will listen. It is testament to Udall’s gorgeous prose that this powerfully, quietly triumphant book never feels sad, but beautiful and achingly alive' – Andrew Gillman (see full review)
'A Thousand Paper Birds brings Kew Gardens, and the people who meet each other there, to life with vivid language' – Yorkshire Post
'A Thousand Paper Birds is a stunningly beautiful, poignant and compelling read. My heart ached while reading it. This is a book that I just know I will read again and again' – Brew and Books Review (see full review)
'I absolutely adored this novel. It is a story that will stay with you long after the last page has been turned. Reminiscent of Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones this book will delight all who read it' - My Bookish Blog Slot (see full review)
'Reading this book has been an unforgettable experience and one that is going to stay with me for quite some time. One of my favourite books of the year so far!' – Books and Me Review (see full review)
'Poetic, visceral, delicate. A story of grief. But also of light and growth. Beautiful' – Will Dean, author of Dark Pines
'Proof that a story can be quirky and enchanting without being twee, this is a mature and emotionally intelligent exploration of grief. I really liked the sex – a significant element I wasn’t expecting – for its honesty and physicality; it’s very well done' – The Literary Sofa – Chosen for best Summer Reads 2017