Summary and book reviews of The Conjurer's Bird by Martin Davies

The Conjurer's Bird

by Martin Davies

The Conjurer's Bird
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Dec 2005, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2006, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

Seamlessly spanning two time periods, The Conjurer's Bird is at once the story of the romance between the 18th century naturalist Joseph Banks and the enigmatic 'Miss B', and of a present-day conservationist named Fitz, who is drawn into a thrilling and near-impossible race to find the elusive bird's only known remains.

The Conjurer's Bird is a beautiful story in the spirit of Possession that is as exciting as The Club Dumas, inspired by one of the great puzzles of natural history: that of the Mysterious Bird of Ulieta. Seen only once, in 1774, by Captain Cook's second expedition to the South Seas, a single specimen was captured, preserved, and brought back to England. The bird was given to famed naturalist Joseph Banks, who displayed it proudly in his collection until its sudden, unexplained disappearance.

Two hundred years later, naturalists continue to wonder if the world will ever get another glimpse of the elusive bird. Were it not for a colored drawing done by the ship's artist, there would be nothing to say that the bird had ever existed.

The Conjurer's Bird is a gripping literary mystery and passionate love story that tackles the intrigue surrounding the celebrated Banks, his secret affair with an enigmatic woman known only as "Miss B," and the legendary bird that becomes a touchstone for their love.

Seamlessly spanning two time periods, The Conjurer's Bird is at once the story of this romance and of a present-day conservationist named Fitz, who is drawn into a thrilling and near-impossible race to find the elusive bird's only known remains.

1
Thursday Night at the Taxidermist's

That Thursday evening I was working late, removing the skull of a dead owl. It was December outside, but at my workbench the heat from the lamp was making my fingers sweat. I was at the hardest part of the whole operation, the bit where you have to ease the skull very gently down the neck without damaging the skin, and as I began to work it loose, I found my eyes were blinking with the concentration. But I could sense it was working, that I was doing it well, and when I heard the telephone grumbling at the back of the shop I decided to let it ring. It was too late for a summons to the pub and even though I'd taken down the sign and removed myself from the Yellow Pages, the five-pint pranksters ("I've got this chicken that needs stuffing . . .") would still occasionally get through. This was their time to call but tonight I wasn't in the mood. Until I remembered Katya and changed my mind.

Katya was the ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. What stylistic differences separate the sections of the novel set in the 1700s and those set in the present?
  2. Is this a particularly English story, or could the novel be just as naturally set in the United States? Why or why not?
  3. Each major character in the novel experiences the intersection of discovery, science, and "the vagaries of chance" (p. 374). Joseph Banks "came to realize later that discovery was not a science" (p. 16). Mary Burnett "did not expect to be noticed. Discovery is not a science; there is too much chance in it" (p. 17). And Fitz believes that "the discovery of most things comes down to luck. People often feel uncomfortable about that. They want discovery...
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The 'mysterious bird of Ulieta' refers to a rare bird that was caught during Captain Cook's second voyage to the South Pacific in 1774. It ended up in the collection of famed naturalist Joseph Banks (who accompanied Cook on his first voyage) and, according to this book, was then given by Banks to his mistress, Mary Burnett a naturalist and gifted botanical artist (who the book jacket bills as the enigmatic "Miss B")... If you enjoy intelligent historical mysteries you should take a close look at The Conjurer's Bird.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (357 words).

Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

A good-natured combination of hammy modern and more sensitive historical mysteries, amounting to something rather less fabulous than The Maltese Falcon.

Booklist - Sarah Watstein

This novel will not disappoint fans of literary mystery and readers who are drawn to naturalist accounts.....Readers who like Andrea Barrett, Arturo Perez-Reverte, and David Liss will find this a page-turner through and through.

Library Journal - Lisa Rohrbaugh

Suspenseful, intriguing, and romantic, this is great entertainment and an excellent choice for book discussion groups; highly recommended for all libraries.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. A few farfetched plot twists aside, this is a captivating novel.

Author Blurb India Edghill, author of Queenmakerand Wisdom's Daughter
Elegantly written and exquisitely researched, The Conjurer's Bird is an engrossing read, a true page-turner as its story twines through past and present. I hated to put it down until the final revelation. Anyone who loved such books as Possession or Girl with a Pearl Earring should be delighted by The Conjurer's Bird.

Author Blurb Andrew Taylor, author of An Unpardonable Crime
Like all the best novels, The Conjurer's Bird left me with the sense of having learned something. . . . Poignant and beguiling.

Reader Reviews

Anno

The Conjurer's Bird
Loved this book. As an Aussie I learned in history about Cook and Banks but this book brought them alive and had me going to the internet to find out more of Banks and Miss B. and the lost bird.

Frances Tate

The Conjurer's Bird
Not too often are we favored with a spellbinding page turner such as this one written by Martin Davies. For anyone who leans towards history and mystery, it is a wonderful find. Some people are fortunate enough to have the blend of history and ...   Read More

Write your own review!

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Where is Ulieta? The island of Ulieta, or Ulietea, is too small to appear in our atlas but if you were to travel roughly North-West of Tahiti you'd likely come across it.  We "Google Earthed" it (16° 49' 60, 151° 25' 0 W) and it looks like a very nice place to spend a few days - green island surrounded by blue seas and a barrier reef (if you haven't yet discovered Google Earth you should give it a go - it's a lot of fun!) 

Captain Cook visited Ulietea on his ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Conjurer's Bird, try these:

  • Jade Dragon Mountain jacket

    Jade Dragon Mountain

    by Elsa Hart

    Published 2016

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    On the mountainous border of China and Tibet in 1708, a detective must learn what a killer already knows: that empires rise and fall on the strength of the stories they tell.

  • The Coral Thief jacket

    The Coral Thief

    by Rebecca Stott

    Published 2010

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    The Coral Thief, as riveting and beautifully rendered as Ghostwalk, Rebecca Stott’s first novel, is a provocative and tantalizing mix of history, philosophy, and suspense. It conjures up vividly both the feats of Napoleon and the accomplishments of those working without fame or glory to change our ideas of who we are and the world in which we ...

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...
  • Book Jacket: A Gentleman in Moscow
    A Gentleman in Moscow
    by Amor Towles
    It is June 21, 1922, and 33-year-old Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is convicted of being a class ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
This Must Be the Place
by Maggie O'Farrell

An irresistible love story for fans of Beautiful Ruins and Where'd You Go, Bernadette?

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.