Elizabeth Laird - The Lure of the Honeybird
- Lydia Willgress
- 27 August 2013
A fascinating collection of Ethiopian stories framed within a warm, empathetic travel memoir
‘Teret, teret, ye lam beret’ (once upon a time), there was a husband who turned a man into a donkey, a God who sat on a rock slitting his penis and a tyrannous king. While this roundup suggests that Elizabeth Laird has strayed into fairy-tale territory with her new novel, a glance at the cover tells a different story. The Lure of the Honeybird frames the traditional Ethiopian tales Laird has collected with a frank account of her travels.
From the explanation of why it’s dangerous to stand under a tree when lightning strikes (it’s the chameleon’s fault), to tales of sex, incest and adultery, this collection both invokes nostalgia and fascination. While the stories predominantly have simple structures (good triumphing over evil, love versus loss), Laird’s knowledge of Ethiopia is astounding and accurate, adding layers to the otherwise sometimes repetitive tales. Her ability to illustrate the hospitality, warmth and understanding of the local people is excellent and she writes with an empathy many writers lack.