Bluebird: A Memoir, By Vesna Maric

Lesley McDowell
Sunday 08 February 2009 01:00

This memoir of a teenage girl's exile to Britain from her home in Mostar in war-torn Bosnia, is a strangely uninvolving one. Vesna Maric has a clear, simple style which should have real impact when describing events that are terrifying at best, but I struggled to find a way in. Carol Shields' daughter said that her mother told her to write as if whispering into the ear of someone she loved, and it's that sense of intimacy that's missing here. From the beginning, Maric seems to announce, rather than confide – "I remember a piece of TV footage that later became legendary" – and that puts up a barrier that the rest of the book struggles to break down.

Her first impressions of Britain and the British are amusing, as are the clichéd expectations that British people have of her own country. The well-intentioned gestures of those selected to look after the new arrivals make for some pitiful scenes. There is a powerful story being told here, but something is smothering that power.

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