If you have not yet discovered Marcia Willett, I urge you to pick up this book, you have a major treat in store. Reminiscent of Rosamunde Pilcher and Maeve Binchy but very much her own woman, Willett writes painstakingly and lovingly of everyday lives that are anything but ordinary.
"The Birdcage" spans two generations of very nice people caught up in circumstances that have far-reaching repercussions. It begins in the 50s, in the loveless marriage of Felix and Marina, whose only thing in common is their precocious young son Piers. Marina is a stiff, unyielding woman who stifles her natural adoration of her husband and son beneath a strict, mean exterior that manifests itself in insane jealousy of Felix, and overbearing discipline toward Piers.
When Felix meets lovely, fey, bubbly Angel, a beautiful actress who lives with her roommate Pidge and young daughter Lizzie in a charming house they have named "The Birdcage," the outcome is inevitable. For years, Felix travels on business to Bristol, where he shares a joyous and lively life with the Birdcage household. Angel is his mistress and their love is unchanging. Until Angel pushes the envelope and tragedy ensues.
Fast forward 40 years. Felix is an elderly and frail man; Piers a divorced adult; and Angel and Pidge are long gone. It takes about two chapters to sort out all the new people and figure out their relationships to one another and to the people of the past, and that is the only reason I gave this book 4 stars instead of 5. But no matter. In an enchanting second half, Lizzie, now grown and an actress on her own, comes back to find Felix--and to ground herself with some understanding of her past. It's a beautiful story that can stand on its own, but when the past meets the present and old wounds are opened and then healed, it makes for a simply lovely story.