Creation by Katherine Govier


byKatherine Govier

Kobo ebook | August 13, 2010

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“In a life so well-documented, these next few months form a rare gap. It is as if the dark cloud and fog Audubon sails into transcends mere weather, and becomes a state of mind. As if Labrador itself (or its weather) swallows the story.”

His need to capture the fugitive colours of birds pushed John James Audubon into impossible places, none more dangerous than the fog-ridden coast of Labrador in the summer of 1833. In mesmerizing prose, novelist Katherine Govier explores this fateful summer in the life of a man as untamed as his subjects.

Running two steps ahead of the bailiff, alternately praised and reviled by critics, John James Audubon set himself the audacious task of drawing, from nature, every bird in North America. The result was his masterpiece, The Birds of America, which he and his family published and sold to subscribers on both sides of the Atlantic. In June 1833, he enlisted his son and a party of young gentlemen to set sail for nesting grounds no ornithologist had ever seen, in the treacherous passage between Newfoundland and Labrador.

Fogbound at Little Natashquan, he encounters Captain Henry Wolsey Bayfield of the Royal Navy, whose mission is to chart the labyrinthine coast to make it safe for sea traffic. Bayfield is an exacting and duty-bound aristocrat; the charismatic Audubon spins tales to disguise his dubious parentage and lack of training. Bayfield is a confirmed bachelor; Audubon is a married man in love with his young assistant. But the captain becomes the artist’s foil and his measuring stick, his judge and, oddly, the recipient of his long-held secrets.

In this atmospheric and enthralling novel, Katherine Govier recreates the summer in which “the world’s greatest living bird artist” finally understood the paradox embedded in his art: that the act of creation was also an act of destruction.

From the Hardcover edition.

Title:CreationFormat:Kobo ebookPublished:August 13, 2010Publisher:Random House of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307369315

ISBN - 13:9780307369314

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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intimate Portrayal of a Fascinating Historical Figure I first read Katherine Govier’s “Creation” when it was first published in 2002. I was quite certain I would enjoy it for two reasons: 1) Govier is one of my favourite novelists 2) As an avid birdwatcher, a novel about John James Audubon, regarded by many in his time as the world’s great living bird artist, is pretty much guaranteed to interest me. I recently returned to “Creation” for a second read and enjoyed it every bit as much as the first time. In this novel, Katherine Govier explores Audubon’s journey in the summer of 1883 to previously unseen nesting grounds in the perilous passage between Newfoundland and Labrador. As is always the case in Govier’s work, the novel combines meticulous research with her ability to peer inside the mind of a character and draw out what drives their behaviour. In Audubon’s case, she reveals a man obsessively, even destructively, driven to complete his goal to draw and paint from nature every bird in North America – an obsession that envelopes his wife and his sons and binds them to the cause. “Creation” is in fact two narratives in one. It also tells the story of British Royal Navy Captain Bayfield whose lifelong mission is to chart the coastlines of the Great Lakes, the St Lawrence River, Newfoundland and Labrador. Audubon and Bayfield’s journeys intersect in this fateful summer and they become unlikely friends – each causing the other to examine what drives them to do what they do. Govier also brings to light that Audubon was among the first to foresee and declare that mankind’s sometimes reckless exploitation of nature was destined to have devastating consequences. “Creation” is a tour de force both in its detailed depiction of the then untamed east coast of Canada and in its intimate portrayal of a man driven by an all-consuming passion as well as by history, fear and the burning desire an of an artist for expression. It is, in my humble estimation, Govier’s finest work.
Date published: 2017-11-21