Readers, Welcome to my blog (formerly Birds, Blooms, Books, etc). I'm entering a new decade taking on the challenge of moving from Maryland after living there 46 years and learning about my new home here in New England in the Live Free or Die state - New Hampshire. Join me as a write this new chapter of my life.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"The Conjurer's Bird" by Martin Davies

I haven't written a book post in a very long time even though it's one of my main reasons for this blog.  Lately I've been re-reading Alexander McCall Smith's No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency Series.  I even bought the last two to complete my set, or so I thought, but then when I started re-reading I discovered I was missing several from having loaned them out or failing to purchase them.  I think I tracked down who I lent them to but they probably won't be coming back anytime soon so I went on with my reading, skipping over those.  I didn't read the very latest one yet.  It the selection for our May book club and I have to decide whether to read it now, then re-read it in May, or wait to read it for the first time in May.

In the meantime I went to the library and found some other books to read.  "The Conjurer's Bird" was the one I just finished last night and as I entered it into my journal list of books read I saw it was the 60th book read this year.  It made me wonder if I could make it to 100 books read by December 31?  Hmm.  Something to consider.

But back to "The Conjurer's Bird" - what a fabulous story!  It's a mix of mystery and historical fiction, both of which I love.  It's based on true facts: Captain Cook's expedition to the South Pacific in the 1770s when a bird specimen was captured and preserved and much later found to be the only one of its species.  The noted naturalist Joseph Banks who hadn't gone on that expedition was given the stuffed bird for his amazing collection, but then over time it disappeared and the only remaining evidence was the sketch made by the ship's artist.

I'm not sure why Davies uses conjurer in his title because that makes you think of a magician and there's none of that in this story.  Despite the misnaming, the book is a wonderful mix of the present - the search for the missing bird - and the past - the telling of the story of Banks, his mistress and how the bird comes into his possession.  There is also a third story interwoven of the grandfather of the present day character, John Fitzgerald and the search for an elusive peacock in Africa.  Though it all is just a story, Davies makes it so believable especially the two stories he weaves from the past.  It made me realize that we know so little about how our ancestors lived.  We may know their statistical facts: birth, baptism, marriage, death, but little about their daily lives unless they kept a diary or journal which few ordinary people did or even if they did, those rarely survived. Davies brings the past to life and makes it so fascinating. 

Such a wonderful book!  It's on my list of all time favorites!  Hope you enjoy it too.