There are echoes of Vladimir Nabokov's infamous narrator, Humbert Humbert, in Fabian's confessional tone, witty humor, and emotional detachment from the series of bizarre events he describes. Set at the turn of the century in a remote cod-fishing community, The Bird Artist is a love story of sorts, filled with curious characters and a chowder restaurant. The men wear "knitted underwear all year round lined with fleece calico" and periodically escape the island to pursue their livelihoods on the sea. But the women are land bound. Helen Twombly suspects fellow villagers of stealing her milk bottles. Alaric Vas suffers from arthritis that no liniment relieves and plots her son's arranged marriage with a fourth cousin in Richibucto, New Brunswick. Meanwhile, Fabian's childhood love, Margaret Handle, propels herself and the plot forward with unwieldy energy. How did things for a mild-mannered man who just likes "to wake up early, wash my face, and get out and draw birds" go so wrong?
Norman, a folklorist and naturalist, presents us with the possible explanations in the form of fine details from an island life he researched while living in a remote Inuit whale-hunting community. He carefully examines the inner isolation of his characters. The severe landscape and the weather serve as the perfect metaphor. If you're looking for linguistic pyrotechnics, Norman's economy won't suit you. In The Bird Artist--a finalist for the 1994 National Book Award--there is as much to admire on the page as what's not. --Cristina Del Sesto
I mostly loved the complexity of the characters and their stories but the plot definitely pulled me along as well.
While it may seem as though the author has given away the plot with the initial paragraph, this is certainly not the case.
Which is a scenario much more true to the realities of everyday life than is the struggle for redemption in my view.
OK thank you G. M-M for inspiring North American writers (many years later) to fool around with the same sort of play with history & dreams. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Marjorie H. Pries
Excellent story. It's almost as though the characters are talking to you. I really enjoy Howard Norman's work. Looking forward to the next book.Published 9 months ago by Rich Harvie
Another fantastic read by Howard Norman. His characters are unique, his plot unusual and he weaves the two together with an easy style.Published 11 months ago by S Trollip
Every word Howard Norman writes carries unusual presence -- telling
not only a compelling story but recreating a true feel for Nova Scotia,
When I ordered "The Bird Artist" I was expecting something in the order of Wayne Johnston's books with lots of Newfoundland background. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Linda Wells
I think that this book is about a person with Asperger's Syndrome who has difficulty with emotional attachment. It is not a sympathetic portrayalPublished 13 months ago by P. J. Milburn
I was drawn to this book out of interest in bird art and Nova Scotia. But I also wanted to try to understand what made this book a finalist for the National Book Award. Read morePublished 16 months ago by a. audio listener
Howard Norman is a fabulous under appreciated author. Read everything of his and look for his new book coming out June/July 2013Published 17 months ago by ruth e. cohen