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The Bird Artist by Howard Norman
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The Bird Artist (1994)

by Howard Norman

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7882411,673 (3.79)1 / 93
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Showing 1-5 of 23 (next | show all)
Overall I liked this, but not as much as What is Left the Daughter which was my first Norman book. One reason is Margaret’s character was unrealistic to me. She thinks about and has sex pretty much all the time. I’m not saying women don’t like sex, but pre-birth control this seems too risky. Also, Fabian seems to see more deeply into other people than men usually do. On one hand he’s very emotional and can’t forgive his mother’s affair, then at other times he acts coldly and dispassionately; like how matter of fact he is while telling about the falling out with his mother. And the live-and-let-live attitude just went too far when it came to the murder. For a while there I didn’t know there’d be any call to justice and when it came I didn’t see it coming. That was nicely done. ( )
  Bookmarque | Mar 21, 2016 |
Better than The Shipping News, I think. Another great read from David Bowie's list. ( )
1 vote effrenata | Mar 1, 2016 |
This is the story of Fabian Vas, a teenage boy in a very small town in Newfoundland, Canada, over 100 years ago. Although he has been sleeping regularly with Margaret, a girl four years older than he, his mother has secretly been planning for her son to wed his own fourth cousin whom her son has never met. The boy sees that his mother has taken to shacking up with the lighthouse keeper, Bothos August, while his dad was away for two months on work trip. This leads the boy to murder the lighthouse keeper (which we know as the book opens. No spoilers here).

The pace of this book is halting, and the story hugely interesting. There is an undercurrent of subtle, dry humor very much covered over by the harsh realities of life. Fabian is a bird artist. His lovely pictures of birds are purchased by magazines, while in his own life, family and friends shoot and eat birds (and are not reticent to let Fabian know this).

Names of so many people abound in this story. They are also odd. Fabian's dad is Orkney Vas; his mom is Alaric Banville. The lighthouse keeper is Botho August. We hear lots of names in this book but are not intended to remember most of them. The book also talks about the Beothuk, who were an indigenous people to Newfoundland. Perhaps the names in this book are of Beothuk origin (as are the songs that some of the characters sing or hum).

This is a captivating story. It is also a look at one of the more unusual mother-son relationships that I've encountered in a novel. I'd say to give this book a read! It is quite different from the run-of-the mill stories of small town life that I've read in th past. It's really a great book! ( )
  SqueakyChu | Jan 26, 2016 |








The Bird Artist Howard Norman
★★★

Set in Witless Bay in Newfoundland, a remote community, this is the story of how love and passion can end in murder.

Fabian Vas is a bird artist yet in the first sentence of the novel he confesses to having killed the lighthouse keeper Botho August, the rest of the narrative works backwards showing what events lead to the murder and how Fabian escaped hanging to tell his story.

The book is studded with detailed descriptions of the bird life in Witless bay and indeed the bay itself is a character, with its isolation allowing certain events to take place and for community justice to take the place of the law. ( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
One of my favorite books all time. Wonderfully original and compelling story of early 20th century Newfoundland. The book The Shipping News wishes it had been. ( )
1 vote jimnicol | Sep 26, 2014 |
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Suddenly, with extreme violence, he felt himself seized by the desire to be, rain or no rain, at any price, in the midst of the valleys: alone. - Giorgio Bassani, The Heron
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For Jane and Emma
For George
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My name is Fabian Vas.
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Book description
This tale of passion, murder and fate is set in 1911 in Witless Bay, Newfoundland, a bleak and isolated community whose citizens are capable of grim retribution and astonishing acts of compassion. In a spare but elegant narrative, Fabian Bass tells us on the novel's first page that he is a bird artist, and that he murdered the lighthouse keeper Botho August. Two irresistible sexual attractions have propelled the 20-year-old Fabian to his desperate act: his love for spirited, eccentric Margaret Handle, which his parents have sought to thwart because she is an alcoholic and older than he; and his mother's flagrant, unrepentant adultery with August as soon as her husband sets off on a long bird-hunting expedition, the proceeds of which are planned to finance Fabian's arranged marriage with a distant cousin he has never met.
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The setting is the bleak coastline of Newfoundland and the protagonist is Fabian Bass, an artistic type who paints birds when he is not building boats. Forced by his parents to abandon the woman he loves in order to marry a cousin, he revenges himself by murdering his mother's lover. By the author of Northern Lights.… (more)

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The Bird Artist (Bowie's Top 100) in 75 Books Challenge for 2016

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