(British, 1951– )
Birch, who was born in Manchester, writes novels which look back to the alternative life—drugs, squats, and communes—of the 1970s. Start with Little Sister (1998), about a lonely middle-aged woman in a northern town who is interrupted whilst contemplating suicide by a request to help trace her own younger sister after a ten-year absence. The quest leads her to other characters from her past, to an exploration of memory and the terrible rivalry between herself and her sister. Come Back Paddy Riley (1999) moves between the present (in which Anita betrays her safe husband by falling into a risky affair) and the past (when Anita, acting as go-between for her mother and her lover, committed another kind of betrayal). Birch's novels are good on place and feelings, and are shot through with black humour.
Livi Michael, Lesley Glaister, Richard Francis JR