Listen free for 30 days

Listen with a free trial

One credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
Unlimited listening to the Plus Catalogue - thousands of select Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks.
Exclusive member-only deals.
No commitment - cancel anytime.
Buy Now for £19.99

Buy Now for £19.99

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Summary

This is a story about birds and fathers.

About the young magpie that fell from its nest in a Bermondsey junkyard into Charlie Gilmour's life - and swiftly changed it. Demanding worms around the clock, riffling through his wallet, sharing his baths and roosting in his hair....

About the jackdaw kept at a Cornish stately home by Heathcote Williams, anarchist, poet, magician, stealer of Christmas and Charlie's biological father who vanished from his life in the dead of night. 

It is a story about repetition across generations and birds that run in the blood; about a terror of repeating the sins of the father and a desire to build a nest of one's own.

It is a story about change - from wild to tame; from sanity to madness; from life to death to birth; from freedom to captivity and back again, via an insane asylum, a prison and a magpie's nest.

And ultimately, it is the story of a love affair between a man and a magpie.

©2019 Charlie Gilmour (P)2020 Orion Publishing Group

Critic reviews

"The best piece of nature writing since H is for Hawk, and the most powerful work of biography I have read in years" (Neil Gaiman)

What listeners say about Featherhood

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    56
  • 4 Stars
    12
  • 3 Stars
    5
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Performance
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    60
  • 4 Stars
    5
  • 3 Stars
    4
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    55
  • 4 Stars
    7
  • 3 Stars
    6
  • 2 Stars
    0
  • 1 Stars
    0

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Not flying away: from featherhood to fatherhood

This is a stunning, beautifully read memoir in the powerful and damaging eccentricity of 30 year-old Charlie Gilmour's biological father, in the sheer beauty of Charlie's writing - and in his life with his adopted magpie.
Charlie Gilmour is the adopted son of David Gilmour (goodness personified) and biological son of Heathcote Williams, poet, anarchist, magician (and much more) who abandoned his mother Polly Samson and six month-old Charlie overnight, having previously (unknown to Polly) abandoned two daughters and another 'wife'. Heathcote was clearly at times clinically insane as well as an alcoholic. He lived holed up in the wing of a grand house in Cornwall belonging to his long-suffering old Etonian school friend, living in squalor and pissing into whatever brimming receptacle came to hand.
The memoir is partly a cathartic account - insightful and unsparing - of Heathcote's cruel failings and of Charlie's own struggles with drugs and mania, sanity being 'a membrane through which it would be all to easy to fall'. It was in one of his self-destructive phases that Charlie climbed the Cenotaph and served 4 fearful months in prison.
The nurturing of Benzine the injured baby magpie by Charlie and his fiancee Yana is the thread weaving all these elements together. More destructive than either a baby or a puppy, Benzine needs feeding insects, grubs and home-assembled meat balls every 20 minutes, hiding bits of these meals in Charlie's hair (and everywhere else) for later or just for keeps; rips up Yana's orchids and much else; defecates liberally all over everything - and whips a contact lends out of a visitor's eye. As the months pass, Heathcote dies (graphically), Benzine flourishes, Charlie and Yana marry and Charlie learns to come to terms with the past - and to roost.
I can only hint at the depth and detail of this astonishing memoir. Charlie's language is a joy: Benzine's feathering can flash 'blue and gold like an alchemist's fire'; the bird's eyes are the 'mineral blue of a slate mine'; Heathcote's squalid unwashed sheets are 'treasure map yellow''.
The book ends with the flight of Benzine and the birth of Yana and Charlie's baby daughter (if you're planning a peaceful water birth at home, skip this bit!). Marvelling at the 'ghost prints' in his baby, Charlie knows he will never fly away, but will be the father that featherhood with Benzine somehow prepared him for. I wish them joy.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Perceptive and touching

I got this book mostly because I love magpies & had vaguely heard of Charlie Gilmour’s brush with police at a demo. I have ended up not only being much better informed about the foolishness of any idea of owning a pet magpie (it’s almost all shit & pecking) but, much to my surprise, I’ve learned a great deal about Charlie’s life and character and I have come away feeling immense admiration for him.

He writes very honestly about what has been a fascinating, slightly tortured life. The book is never sentimental but there are some very deep insights that demonstrate just how much of a journey he has been on.
Highly recommended. Whether you read it because of Charlie the notorious youth, or because you like magpies, you’ll come away a big fan of Charlie the writer.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Magic Magpie

Very well writen and so pleasantly narrated by the author. I really LOVED this book!!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Mesmerising

This is beautifully written and narrated. . I was totally enthralled from start to finish by Charlie’s story and that of the magpie. Utterly mesmerising.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

get a dog, get a life

well I'm glad there is a happy ending and I hope Charlie and family have a more satisfying future..
I have a dog and know how close one gets to another creature, they teach you love. but I could not put up with magpie poo at any cost.
I don't understand why Charlie gave Heathcote a single thought, he should consider himself so lucky to have been adopted into a wealthy and caring family.
I had to speed up the book as it got boring in places.
I would recommend reading a summary rather than reading this story.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

a good read/listen

loved it. charmingly told with warmth and insight. highly recommended. was sad when it ended.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A magical memoir

Heartfelt, messy and magical. The writing is crisp and vivid. The best book I’ve read in years!

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

loved it

I had this in my wish list for a good while as it seemed right up my street. being by Charlie Gilmour was what was stopping me buying it.
I am ex Army and he did what he did to the cenotaph so I thought I knew all I needed to know, anyway I was struggling to find something I liked so through caution to the wind .
I'm pleased I did I thoroughly enjoyed it. Still not sure about Gilmour but the book I enjoyed thoroughly.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A wonderful book!

I heard Charlie talking on Saturday Live and was fascinated by his story so bought the audible version. Oh what an interesting story he tells. His narration is perfect with his soothing tones. I highly recommend this lovely book.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Beautiful

I enjoyed this beautiful poetic and personal account enormously! Really recommend to everyone! Loved it!
Look forward to more!