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The Bird Catcher Paperback – Bargain Price, June 22, 2010
This month's Book With Buzz: "Little Fires Everywhere" by Celeste Ng
From the bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You, a riveting novel that traces the intertwined fates of the picture - perfect Richardson family and the enigmatic mother and daughter who upend their lives. See more
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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.
"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
Top customer reviews
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. Their relationship appears perfect, and the cynic in me can't imagine everything that wonderful. In addition, for a talented woman, she spends a terribly large amount of time worrying over her parents approval (she didn't finish college). She also seems strangely reserved around other people, which is odd because she describes herself as an extrovert.
A few other things struck me as off: while the descriptions of the art of window dressing for sales is fascinating, her description of her gay coworkers plays to stereotypes and is insulting in its own way. All of them appear flighty, silly, babyish, and primadonna queens. She seems to want to describe this professional career but ends up mocking the workers who put it together with such art. Additionally, she and her friend Emily are very fluent in the high-brow culture scene in New York: art, opera, and fashion. I consider myself having a good basic knowledge of popular art, but I understood maybe a tenth of the references to current artists. All of this almost feels like she's telling the reader "if you don't understand, you're an imbecile", since so much of the story is dependent on understanding the art references or the works of a particular obscure designer. It's never a good idea to make your reader feel stupid! Sure, I could have looked them up, but there were so many, I really didn't feel like doing the homework. It felt a tiny bit pretentious.
On a positive note, her explanations of the actual window dressing is interesting, and her friend's art gallery holds interest as she explains how the provenance of different objects can be manipulated for profit. The biggest bit of unexpected knowledge is Margaret's interest and decision to learn taxidermy, and the details of this further hobby are more interesting that I'd expected. This isn't a bad novel, and the quick pace makes it very readable...at times I did get overwhelmed by names and brands, but I finished it with a sense of contemplation.
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.