A very special and unique book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The book follows a very special bond of love and friendship between friends throughout their lives with the background of historic world events and unexpected events that are closer to home.
The book starts with an in-depth history and traditions of the game Mahjong, the translation is 'Clattering Sparrows' of which the book is named after, due to the sound made when the tiles are shuffled similar to numerous sparrows squabbling over food. Mahjong is in the overall theme of the book due to the main characters love of the game, a beautiful old set given to them by a special friend and their many afternoons and evenings playing together from being children up to adulthood.
The story introduces the reader to the 'Fabulous Five' group of close friends from the age of five, when they become neighbours, and throughout their lives as their close bond never fades away. The story begins with a shocking twist of fate that is kept secret and unfolds throughout the book. An emotional read at times covering unconditional love, loss, happiness and sadness, the book reads like a biographical story. I must admit that after a few chapters I found it hard to actually put the book down as I wanted to learn more as the stories secrets begin to unravel.
As I read the second half of the book, without saying too much and spoiling it for you, my admiration went out to Irina, a Ukranian farmers wife who's life was devastatingly affected by Chernobyl, who's strength in character and devotion to her husband brings the story together and allows the stories characters to move on with their lives, I felt she had been exceptionally brave at the decisions she had made.
Towards the back of the book you are also treated to a couple of pages of friendship poems, Chinese year of the Rat, 1936, and Author Notes.
A very pleasant and enjoyable read with twists that connects the stories characters in unexpected ways.