Homing: On Pigeons, Dwellings, and Why We Return by Jon Day - review by Richard Smyth

Richard Smyth

Free as a Bird?

Homing: On Pigeons, Dwellings, and Why We Return


John Murray 255pp £16.99 order from our bookshop

A memoir of pigeon keeping and middle-class life in flux, Jon Day’s Homing is a sort of P Is for Pigeon, diligently if somewhat bloodlessly filling out the template set by Helen Macdonald for exploring the wild and the tame, home and family, flight and return. It’s never compelling but it’s often interesting.

Day, a literary critic and academic by trade, takes up pigeon racing in a fit of hipster amateurism (and, by writing about it, adds to a subgenre that includes start-up beekeeper Helen Jukes’s recent A Honeybee Heart Has Five Openings). At the same time, he and his pregnant partner, Natalya, settle into a new home in not-quite-gentrified Leyton, east London, with their young daughter, Dora. These strands are interwoven in the approved manner with potted histories, pigeon lore and forays into literature.

A crisis in the strimmer aisle of a B&Q shortly before his daughter’s birth (‘I was suddenly struck by an overwhelming fear of just how small our world was about to become’) triggers in Day ‘a vague and manic wanderlust’, which eventually expresses itself in the purchase of a pair

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