Creation : a novel /

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Main Author: Govier, Katherine, 1948-
Format: Book
Published:Woodstock, NY : Overlook Press, 2003, c2002.
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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Seeking elusive birds for his great work, John James Audubon sails to the northern reaches of the continent--and begins understanding the possibility of species extinction. In an ambitious and dense effort, Canadian novelist Govier (Going Through the Motions, 1982, etc.) fills in a largely undocumented gap in Audubon's search to document all the birds of North America. Nearing 50, semifamous, financing his research with balky subscriptions for the work in progress, the hugely talented but insecure artist has financed an expedition to Canada's maritimes to find and document the Great Auk and other rare birds. He leaves behind, as always, a domestic mess. His beloved wife Lucy, robbed of income by the needs of her husband's magnum opus, keeps up the homefront, barely clinging to respectability. While Lucy holds off the bailiffs, her husband has been in Charleston, South Carolina, flirting seriously with Maria Martin, an attractive spinster whose superb renderings of American fauna will be mingled with Audubon's avian portraits. Maria is constantly in his thoughts as Audubon sails up the Canadian coast, poking into coves, sinking into bogs, killing the hundreds of birds that will sit for their portraits. He is accompanied by his son Johnny, also a talented painter, and a couple of jovial young naturalists. Also working the waters is Royal Navy Captain Henry Bayfield, who is charting the hideously complex and dangerous coastline, balancing his own demands for perfection against the Admiralty's wish not to spend too much money. The sailor and artist form an odd and prickly friendship, and their awkward tradings of observations and philosophy provide the most compelling moments in this necessarily chilly narrative. Bayfield hears rather more than he may want to about Audubon's inner life, but, together, the two men reckon with the dawning idea that the epic slaughter of seemingly inexhaustible wildlife by human intruders will have dire and permanent consequences. Carefully crafted and deeply thoughtful, but not for the casual traveler. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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