The Bird Artist

Patty Osborne

Speaking of the library, the day after I borrowed The Bird Artist by Howard Norman (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), a book my brother had recommended, The Museum Guard (Knopf), also by Norman, arrived in the Geist office. For some reason I chose to read The Museum Guard first, even though The Bird Artist had a due date, and I'm now paying for that decision. The thing is, I didn't really like The Museum Guard, even though it takes place in Halifax, one of my favourite cities. I found the story flat and it seemed like too much effort to read, but since my brother had said this guy was a great writer, I persevered. Meanwhile, The Bird Artist sat on my bedside table using up its loan time, and when I finally picked it up I had only three days left to read it. Even this would have been all right, had I not enjoyed the book so much that I decided to review it for Geist. The library wouldn't let me renew the book, so even as I write, my late fines are building up. Anyway, the bird artist is Fabian Vas, who lives in Witless Bay, Newfoundland with his mother, Alaric, and his father, Orkney. It's the early 19s and Fabian is working at the drydock and learning to draw birds by correspondence (his teacher lives in Halifax). His story of growing up in this Newfoundland outport includes murder, adultery, death by bicycle collision and a five-minute marriage, as well as many people with odd names. The story is funny and touching, and not at all flat. I wish I had more time or money so I could read it again.

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