A perverse and unusual book of literary erotica becomes a surreal and fetching narrative in this visually sumptuous and singular series. Juno Temple's natural British accent has been stifled into squeaky spoiled-American-girl cadences, but her eyes communicate Lucy's astonishment with, and then growing admiration of, the decadent Moroccan milieu in which she finds herself. Little Birds opens on Lucy as she's getting released from a mental hospital; her overly confident doctor advises her to take four of his own patented "mood-levelling tranquillity elixir" pills daily for freedom from "distracting wants and troublesome behaviors." Needless to say, it doesn't work. Though her intrusive daddy, a robber baron of the weapons world, lines up English nobleman Hugh to take charge of Lucy's wayward existence, by the time 48 hours have elapsed in Morocco, Lucy's already met the mysterious Cherifa and a whole host of what Hugh calls "reprobates" that she's immediately fascinated by.
And so the weird narrative of Little Birds winds on, through closeted 1955 gay male assignations, French-Moroccan political complications, and a friendship with fierce dominatrix Cherifa, whose fight for independence from the French colonialists who pay for her services mirrors Lucy's own struggle for sovereignty from her pushy parents and polite society. Don't expect much in the way of coherency -- Nin's book of the same title is a collection of disparate short stories linked mostly by a focus on female sexuality, and though the series hacks a narrative path through Nin's anecdotes, it's still loopy, with characters popping up, doing a turn, then suddenly disappearing and leaving story threads hanging. No matter; Little Birds is suffused with saturated colors: blue sky and sea, a cinnamon desert, Cherifa's one shining gold tooth. And with Lucy as our avatar we're happy, even eager, to follow her through her odd-but-seductive adventures.