Book Review: Susanna Hoffs’s “This Bird Has Flown” — A Satisfying Romcom

By Karen Schlosberg

All in all, This Bird Has Flown is light but not brainless, and engagingly adorable. It’s a perfect beach read for the New Wave set.

This Bird Has Flown by Susanna Hoffs. Little, Brown and Company, 368 pages, $29.

Susanna Hoffs, lead singer of the pop band the Bangles, has written a delightfully entertaining romance. In This Bird Has Flown, singer-songwriter Jane Start is ten years out of having a hit record, broke, and reduced to living with her parents and performing at bachelor parties in Vegas. Worse than that, she’s unable to write, her muse having dried up some years earlier while she subsumed herself to her cheating ex-boyfriend’s career as a filmmaker.

When her British manager suggests a change of scene might inspire her, Jane hops on a plane to London and ends up sitting next to a dishy Oxford professor of English named Tom Hardy (neither the author nor the actor), and sparks fly. Soon she is living in his flat in Oxford in a romantic haze, starting to write again. Then her manager tells her of a seemingly golden opportunity: Musician superstar Jonesy, the author of Jane’s hit song, wants her to appear with him at the Royal Albert Hall.

This being a romcom, of course there are pitfalls and obstacles on the way. Tom’s past is a little fuzzy and he doesn’t want to talk about it. His friends hint at a bad breakup with an apparently perfect girl, who breaks into the flat and returns Tom’s cat. And Jonesy is an enigmatic, emotionally stunted man who refuses to tell Jane exactly what he wants from her, evoking bad memories of an awkward night with him.

I probably don’t even have to add that there is an inevitable happily-ever-after, this, again, being a romcom. It is satisfying and heartfelt, with more than one wedding in store.

Hoffs focuses on what she knows best, the music business, and does a good job, especially with describing the processes of songwriting and performing: “… I surprised even myself when the notes rang out, clear and bright and free; they seemed to have a life of their own, as if my voice belonged to someone else. I felt a surge of exhilaration, and in my chest, a sensation akin to the flurried beating wings, as of a captive bird that’d been sprung from its cage.”

She has a confident, humorous voice, a deft turn of phrase (“a peloton of cyclists”) and a keen eye for small details that help build a foundation for her story’s reality; I never heard of anyone else besides me who finds men’s forearms enticing: “He rolled up his sleeves a few ticks as he ordered, and there they were, the forearms, in all their glory. Men never seem to grasp the exquisite power of this part of their anatomy; they seem to fixate entirely on another. What dummies.”

Susanna Hoffs. Photo: Little, Brown

She also writes about sexual tension with nuance and heat, which, if missing, would have derailed the whole plot. Jane and Tom’s immediate attraction, both physical and emotional, is believable and engaging. And she doesn’t go into too much detail, which is too frequently a pitfall in a romcom, turgid prose often turning into parody.

Without the romance this would still have been an interesting story about Jane’s artistic journey, and the book could have used more of it. Jane spends a little too much time centering the men in her life, first her sleazy ex then the attractive mystery that is Tom. By the time she stands up for herself it’s the end of the novel, which finishes rather abruptly with an epilogue that feels tacked on rather than organic to the narrative.

But all in all, This Bird Has Flown is light but not brainless, and engagingly adorable. It’s a perfect beach read for the New Wave set.

Karen Schlosberg is a veteran journalist and editor. Her work has appeared in such publications as The Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Rolling Stone, Musician, Creem, and Trouser Press. She can be reached here or on Twitter @karen1055.


  1. Michael kurkowski on November 5, 2023 at 12:28 am

    There is nobody like extremely enormously beautiful Susanna. This bird has flown is wonderful 😊 enjoying it. Yes Michael again. I love you forevermore Susanna.

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