Available Light is – to begin with at least – a book about birds, but not in the way you might immediately imagine. Outside of Hitchcock or Hughes, McManus’s theme derives from the ancient Roman practice of augury, the observation of birds in flight, determining omens and divine approval, or disapproval, from their movements. In her introduction, McManus remarks than “Augurs were the conduits and interpreters of the impetrativa (requests from the people to the gods) and oblativa (messages sent from the gods to the people)”. It might seem like a curious topic, but this is more than just a gimmicky framing device for the collection. Alongside natural imagery, wondrous descriptions of wrens, starlings, etc., McManus is also dealing with the very human practice of fervent requests and selfless dedication, ubiquitous and timeless facets of our human condition, bringing together ancient approaches with contemporary living. (Lagan Online )

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