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Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wednesday 4th April, 2012 - The Conjurer's Bird by Martin Davies(chosen by De)

The Conjuror's Bird by Martin Davies is a fantastic read. It kept me awake late into the night wanting to find out what was going to happen next. It is one of those books that reads like a movie in your mind. The novel is actually two stories in one book. One is the love story between Joseph Banks, the famous naturalist and his mistress Miss B---n, which is set in the1700’s and written in the style of that period, which I think makes their love story more romantic.

The second is set in the present day and is about Taxidermist John Fitzgerald and his search for the mysterious bird of Ulieta, an extinct creature which was stuffed and given to Joseph’s Banks for his collection, which somehow disappeared and was never seen again.  John thinks that Joseph’s mistress Miss B---n is linked to the missing bird and sets out to find it, along with a cast of others who are in a race to find it first.

This book was my chosen book for the month so I had to lead the discussion on it at our next meeting which was at He's place. As soon as I finished the book I was googling Joseph Banks, who I found is not only a famous figure in history and did amazing things in his lifetime but his private life was intriguing too.   I realised that quite a few historically factual things did occur in the story.

I then googled his mistress and was surprised to come across the actual article in ‘The Town and Country’ where their affair was mentioned and drawings of the both of them. I found I was googling the places, faces, and birds mentioned in the book, it was a satisfying task and I was feeding my own personal interest.

The discussion that night was a good one, three of our members were away, two of them didn't finish it, those that did loved it, Su, Ca and myself especially. I couldn't find  much on the author himself, just one paragraph anda video interview on his new book ‘Unicorn Road’, which I must now read because it sounded so interesting.

I found a site that had a few discussion questions so I took them along to the meeting because we always have question time,  I thought they might be a bit too ‘schoolish’ for us, but we got through them quite painlessly as a group and they made us think! 

I would definitely recommend this book, it ticks so many boxes.  Some readers might find it a bit slow to begin with, but persevere and you won’t be disappointed.

Check out these Interesting Links:

Discussion Questions from ReadingGroupGuide website

Natural History Museum and the painting

Cook's second voyage

Joseph Banks (Wiki)

Joseph Banks (2:38m video from British Natural History Museum)

Martin Davies video (on Unicorn Road)

Sir Joseph Banks Society  (more links to be explored here)

Soho Square House of Joseph Banks

Soho Square

Town and Country article mentioned in book (engraving on p456)

Flickr Gallery by Bolckow on Joseph Banks

Raiatea, Tahiti (Ulietea)

Bay Thrush

Kew Gardens Website

The Mysterious Bird of Ulietea painting by Georg Forster 1774

Joseph Banks (1743-1820)

engraving of Lady Dorothea Banks 

Revesby  Estate where Banks lived

Revesby Abbey (another view)

Soho Square c1700  The home today is now occupied by 20CFox

Miss B__n and The Circumnavigator (click on picture for more information)

Raiatea (Ulietea) Tahiti today - the bird originated from here

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