Neuroscientist Dr Yvonne Churcher has problems in the world beyond her lab. One of her students, James, a dangerously attractive animal rights campaigner, has set out to challenge her certainties about how the brain works. His brilliant, unstable friend, Gareth, is obsessed with the biochemical basis of memory. When Gareth tries to persuade Yvonne to get involved with a plan to stimulate memory artificially, it sets off a chain of events involving unscrupulous biotech companies, stolen brain-mapping data and a strange brand of eco-terrorism. Set in a near-future world of experimental brain research, A Box of Birds combines the pace of a literary thriller with a darkly intense love story. It brilliantly dramatizes the clash between two of the predominant philosophical positions of our age: the materialist view that science has all the answers and that 'we' are nothing more than brain cells and neurotransmitters, and the therapy-inspired view that the stories we tell about ourselves and our pasts have the capacity to change our future. As Yvonne Churcher is drawn towards an ever more complex and disturbing truth, she has to face tough questions.
Can neuroscience really change our understanding of who we are? Or are we all at the mercy of our own need to make coherent stories?