Review 1866: The Bird Artist

The Bird Artist, I find, is listed as the first in Howard Norman’s Canadian trilogy, of which The Haunting of L. is the third. I’m not sure I understand the grouping, since I have read several other books by Norman and they are all set in Canada, so far. However that may be, I continue to be charmed by his work even though it all seems to explore some dark places.

Fabian Vas is the narrator of the novel, and he tells us right off the bat that he has murdered someone. Then he goes on to describe his life in the remote village of Witless Bay, Newfoundland, where he becomes a bird artist and boat fixer, beginning his story in 1911.

Two complicated sets of relationships affect Fabian’s future when he is a young man. One is that between Alaric, his mother, and Orkney, his father. The other is between himself and Margaret, his longtime friend and lover. Margaret is acerbic, and Fabian seems ambivalent. Alaric hates Margaret, so she talks Orkney into arranging a marriage for him with a cousin he has never met. It is this arrangement that kicks off a series of events ending in some fatalities.

That makes it sound like a dark novel, but it is not. In fact, it has a lightness to it, in tone, in its insights in its characters. It is about betrayal and guilt but also about redemption. Another fine novel from Norman.

Related Posts

The Haunting of L.

The Northern Lights

My Darling Detective

8 thoughts on “Review 1866: The Bird Artist

  1. Cathy746books June 3, 2022 / 9:30 am

    I remember reading this quite a few years ago when a Canadian friend sent me a copy. I loved it at the time

  2. Rebecca Foster June 3, 2022 / 11:00 am

    I think Howard Norman is a very underrated writer. This was my favourite of the four of his novels I’ve read, but I also really loved his memoir-in-essays, I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place.

    • whatmeread June 3, 2022 / 2:20 pm

      I haven’t read that yet! Something to look forward to.

  3. FictionFan June 5, 2022 / 6:12 pm

    I haven’t come across Norman before – this one sounds interesting!

    • whatmeread June 5, 2022 / 9:17 pm

      I have read three or four of his and enjoyed them all. He’s a really good writer.

  4. Naomi June 10, 2022 / 12:42 pm

    I still haven’t read any of his books, even though I own two or three. Good to know you like them!

    • whatmeread June 11, 2022 / 11:23 am

      Really? I thought I got his name from you. You should try him!

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