Neuroscientist Dr Yvonne Churcher has problems in the world beyond her lab. One of her students, James, a dangerously attractive anti-science protestor, has set out to challenge her entire philosophy about how the brain works. His friend, Gareth, a brilliant, unstable computer genius, is obsessed with the biochemical basis of memory. When he 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.
A Box of Birds is both a pacy literary thriller set in a near-future world of experimental brain research, and a compelling love story between a neuroscientist and an animal rights campaigner. It brilliant 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 bundles of nerves and chemical reactions, and the Freud-inspired position that underpins the culture of psychotherapy: that the stories we tell about ourselves and our pasts have the capacity to change our future. Does neuroscience really change our understanding of who we are? Or are we all at the mercy of our own need to make coherent stories?