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The Bird Artist #1 - set in Newfoundland

The Bird Artist #1 by Howard Norman

Genre: Historical Fiction / General Fiction

Published 1994; 289 pages

I found this book on a 6-Degrees-of-Separation blog wander. I'm telling you all, that's a fabulous meme to experience! There are SO many unusual bookish connections and so many books I'm not familiar with - this was one recommended by Susan at A Life in Books and is first in a Canadian trilogy.

FIRST SENTENCE(S): "My name is Fabian Vas. I live in Witless Bay, Newfoundland. You would not have heard of me. Obscurity is not necessarily failure, though; I am a bird artist, and have more or less made a living of it. Yet I murdered the lighthouse keeper, Botho August, and that is an equal part of how I think of myself."


1911 Newfoundland, Canada: As mentioned in the opening lines, Fabian is an artist who from a young age sketched and drew and painted the native birds of his remote patch of Newfoundland. And, he did murder the lighthouse keeper. This quiet story is told in the first person by Fabian, and we learn of his quiet life of drawing

birds, 'dating' Margaret, a planned marriage, a betrayed girlfriend, a broken marriage, a reunion and a quiet life resumed. While all those things do happen, the story is filled with quirky characters with VERY unusual names that I have to believe actually reflect names in Newfoundland.


What an odd little book. A book where it feels like nothing happens, and yet ...... The writing style is unique - spare and almost abrupt sometimes. Dialog in general is short and sharp and simple - Margaret's direct way of communication with no bullshit made me smile. Fabian's mom, Alaric, is an interesting, unhappy, unexplained woman. Her motivations aren't spelled out specifically, so we're left to our own analysis. His dad, Orkney, is easier to understand.

The book is very evocative of the starkness and beauty of Newfoundland. It might be worth a Google look to find Witless Bay and to even look up some of the birds (birds I've never heard of!). I picked it up as something for my Read the World challenge and found it ...... interesting.

Challenges tagged:

Historical fiction: 4/15

Library Love: 9/70+

COYER 1st semester: 14 books read.

Read the World: 6/197 (Newfoundland)

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