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The Lure of the Honey Bird The Storytellers of Ethiopia by Elizabeth Laird

The Lure of the Honey Bird The Storytellers of Ethiopia

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August 2013 Book of the Month.

Elizabeth Laird first visited Ethiopia in 1967 as a young woman taking up her first teaching post but it wasn’t until the 1990’s that she was able to return to the country that had enchanted her. As an established author she was commissioned to collect folk stories that would provide reading material for book-starved school children. Her task led her into every corner of the country, meeting and talking with the many different peoples making up modern Ethiopia. Elizabeth Laird is a sympathetic listener to the stories she is told and we in turn are served a rich pudding of a book, stuffed with incident and observation.

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The Chains of Heaven: An Ethiopian Romance, Philip Marsden
In Ethiopia with a Mule, Dervla Murphy

A 'Piece of Passion' from the publisher...

'I knew Liz was a major award-winning children's author, so it was with real anticipation that I sat down to read this book. It is beautifully written in Liz's spare, elegant style, and her account of her travels in Ethiopia where she encountered storytellers was utterly engrossing. As Liz says herself: 'I felt like the Brothers Grimm must have felt when they caught hold of the tails of the stories of Europe, before they were whisked away down the holes of oblivion and lost forever.' - Alison Rae, Polygon Editorial Manager

Who is Sue Baker


The Lure of the Honey Bird The Storytellers of Ethiopia by Elizabeth Laird

In 1967, at the age of 23, Elizabeth Laird set off for Addis Ababa to take up her first teaching post. She was introduced to Haile Selassie, made a pilgrimage across the mountains on foot to the ancient city of Lalibela, hitched a ride on an oil tanker across the Danakil Desert, and was arrested for a murder she had not committed. Back in Britain, Laird established herself as a major author of fiction for children and young adults, but she always wanted to return to Ethiopia. Her chance came in the late 1990s, when the British Council in Addis Ababa invited her to collect folk stories from every region of the country. Encountering ex-guerrilla fighters, camel traders, Coptic nuns and tribespeople en route, Laird has written a remarkable account of her journey interwoven with a treasure trove of stories featuring princes and maidens, snakes and lions, zombies and hyena-women.


'Laird's knowledge of Ethiopia is astounding and accurate ... she writes with an empathy many others lack'

- The List 'A lovely meander through Ethiopia's oral tradition

- Independent on Sunday 'I was mesmerized throughout with her vivid and insightful descriptions ... It is a fascinating read

- American Peace Corps newspaper, the Herald

About the Author

Elizabeth Laird

Elizabeth Laird was born in New Zealand in 1943, the fourth of five children. In 1945, Laird and her family returned to Britain and she grew up in South London, where she was educated at Croydon High School. When she was eighteen, Laird started teaching at a school in Malaysia.

She decided to continue her adventurous life, even though she was bitten by a poisonous snake and went down with typhoid. After attending the university in Bristol, Laird began teaching English in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She and a friend would hire mules and go into remote areas in the holidays. After a while at Edinburgh University, Laird worked in India for a summer. During travel, she met her future husband, David McDowall. The couple were married in 1975 and have two sons, Angus and William. Laird has also visited Iraq and Lebanon. She claims to dislike snakes, porridge and being cold but enjoys very dark chocolate, Mozart, reading and playing the violin in the Iraq Symphony Orchestra. She and her husband currently divide their time between London and Edinburgh.

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Book Info

Publication date

15th July 2013


Elizabeth Laird

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Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited an imprint of Birlinn General


304 pages


Biography / Autobiography
Books of the Month
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