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The Bird Catcher Paperback – June 22, 2010

3.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The latest from Vanity Fair contributing editor Jacobs (Women About Town) has, at its core, a charming story about a grieving widow reborn, but it's pockmarked by pretentious dialogue and flat characters. Margret Snow quits her Ph.D. program in art to escape the romantic feelings she has toward her bird-watching partner (and Columbia University adviser), Charles Ashur. She whiles her time away as a window display designer at Saks and eventually works up the courage to confess her feelings, and they marry. Margret's memories shift between her and Charles's early bird-watching days and their marriage. But the most vivid parts of the novel are set in the gloomy present, when Margret, now a widow, throws herself in a new artistic direction that involves dead birds. Her connection to the dead sparrows and warblers seems more natural than the off-key relationships she has with the living, and her isolation from family and friends raises the question why she tries to keep the connections alive, while the grating banter between Margret and Charles only serves to caricaturize them. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Laura Jacobs firmly establishes herself as one of our most astute and elegant observers of a certain rarefied species of female Manhattanite . . . Enchanting.” —Vanity Fair

“Laura Jacobs is an urban miniaturist. In her sleek, pitch-perfect second novel, The Bird Catcher, she lavishes delectable attention on the subtle distinctions wrought by taste, class, money, and style in the city on which she trains her eagle eye….Jacobs orchestrates her character's sonata as expansively and dramatically as a symphony whose strains linger on, long after the last page has been turned.” —Bookforum

“Jacobs presents a measured and compelling yet nonlinear narrative so that readers encounter Margret's life in pieces. And it is well worth the effort to get to know her. Jacobs' incisive writing captures her characters' moods, while her graceful descriptions of the birds that inspire her protagonist illuminate the story.” —Booklist

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1 edition (June 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 031254023X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312540234
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,225,548 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Bird Catcher will heartbreakingly catch your heart. Its prose is simple, yet complex. It is rich in symbolism, but the symbolism does not get in the way of its good story. Told partly in the present and partly in flashback, it is the story of a young woman who makes unusual choices, on the one hand, and traditional choices, on the other. It demonstrates the strength of the bond between women as well as the strength of the bond between a man and a woman. I unabashedly cared about what happened to the Bird Catcher, and I loved, fretted and grieved right along with her. I highly recommend this book. It would make a perfect gift, too.
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Format: Hardcover
"The Bird Catcher" brings to mind both "The Tatoo Artist" and "The Incredible Lightness of Being", all three books managing to capture the poignance and elusiveness of life on this planet in all its forms. I found myself re-reading particularly beautiful passages several times. The metaphor of birds as souls, the wonderfully visual descriptions of the "bird catcher's" art, the sensory evocation of New York City's hidden pockets of wildness and unseen tragedies, the depiction of betrayals, losses and connections were all beautifully handled. I would definitely read this book again and, in fact, will add it to my library of "special books" bought for that purpose.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
While this book may appeal to some, I was disappointed. I was halfway through the book before I realized how Margret's life changed and felt that for such a monumental change, it was somewhat glossed over. I didn't understand Margret's attraction for and friendship with Emily either. Emily seemed too shallow for someone like Margret. And while the author definitely knew about birds and taxidermy (more than I wanted to know) , it was the Manhattan lifestyle and department store window career and surrounding drama that drew me in.
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Format: Hardcover
Grief is personal. Coping with grief is also personal. We all have our own methods of coping with the grief of losing a loved one. Grief can be so consuming that it leaves one unaware of how our grief changes the way we treat our friends and family, and also how the behavior of those who love and care about us shifts to make allowances for the self-centeredness we sometimes unthinkingly wallow in.

I loved this book. It was quiet. It was poignant. It's the story of a woman who dresses windows in Saks and who loves birds. It's a story about a woman and her relationship with her grandfather, her soulmate and her best friend. It's a story of a woman who finds herself adrift after a tragic event. As certain events in her life appear to spiral out of her control, it's also a story of a woman who gradually finds her way again and sees light at the end of a dark tunnel.

There are some good descriptions of birds found in Central Park, NY and incredible details in the art of taxidermy - at least the taxidermy of birds which I found fascinating, but which I can see might revolt those with a lighter stomach for this art.

I liked how the story focused on this one woman, Margret, and her love of birds, and how her thoughts and fears were gradually shared. We know she has a secret with the birds she looks for, but we're not quite sure what she's doing. There are little hints that all is not well in her life at the start of the book, but we're not given the full details until much later, after we've already started to suspect a tragedy and we're already starting to feel we want to wrap her in our arms. While we may not whoop out loud at the end of her journey, there is a definite lift in our spirits as we see her start to straighten her shoulders, lift her head and look forward with clear eyes and a spring in her step.
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Format: Hardcover
Bird watching is a very subtle hobby. Birders focus on the small things that are around us all the time, ignored by the masses of people who may be nearby. Birders have patience and a quiet, inquisitive mind that enables them to pursue a specimen in any kind of weather, and go where ever the search may take them. In Central Park, it's especially imaginative to think of these bird lovers spending their free moments searching, admiring, and carrying nothing away but their memory.

This is the backstory to The Bird Catcher. The lead character Margaret falls in love with a fellow birder, a man named Charles who is actually one of her professors. They spend their early courtship exploring birds in Manhattan. In her real life, she's a window dresser for Saks, and she assists her friend Emily in acquiring unique pieces for an art gallery. These three form the backbone of the book, and each of them are well-developed characters. The story doesn't fall into any expected formula, and the characters are actually very interesting. Jacobs manages to display each characters unique personality by showing what they say and do. While the main characters are female, I wouldn't dream of calling this "chick lit"; it has more depth and more complexity by far.

Conceptually, this is a great book. However, I had numerous issues with the story itself. First, we learn early that Charles has passed away, but we aren't told how or when, which builds a curiosity as you read. Margaret seems to be explaining her relationship with him in flashbacks, but it's never entirely clear what is past and what is present. Even through the end, when you discover what happened to Charles, the explanation feels too brief to understand her resulting grief.
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