Creation

Publisher: Vintage Canada
“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.

READ AN EXCERPT

Goodbye
to Land
Just suppose.


That it is a bright, cold May morning in the year 1833, and two men alight from the stagecoach in a little town on the Maine seacoast.

They are father and son, judging by their flowing chestnut locks and aquiline features, by their matching one-handed swoop off the...
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PRAISE FOR

Creation is a tour de force, a finely written historical account that plays, for a serious purpose, with the very nature of historical inquiry and humanity’s place in the natural order. For all its absence of proof, it is a deeply convincing story.” -- Maclean's

Creation is an unusual but enticing novel. Tightly constructed, well researched, and written with the élan that Govier always brings to her fiction, it presents the question -- is the act of creation also an act of destruction?” -- The Sun Times (Owen Sound)

“[Creation] is a marvelous piece of art…. Through a command of period vernacular, astonishing pictorial detail and craftsman-like skill, Govier brings Audubon alive…. Creation is a sprawling novel, teeming with natural abundance, yet delivered in small, intimate scenes…. the reward is deep engagement, the kind that promises a novel a lasting place in the affections of readers.” -- The Toronto Star

“Govier has crafted a novel of ideas, inseparably layering the ecological and personal. Redeeming both is that most human commodity, hope. Amid stone and black water, Govier finds an indifferent platform for both our ambitions and our hope.” -- The National Post

“In an inventive sleight-of-hand combining fact with fiction, history with myth, Govier spins the story of a man on a relentless quest to tame the untamable…. The book, with its beautiful cover, is meticulously researched, its descriptions of birds, their colours, their song, their habitats, enchanting. And [Govier’s] landscapes are both striking and wonderfully observed: rocky promontories, dark water, glowering skies and the chill splendour of icebergs.” -- The London Free Press

“[Govier] spins in Creation an elegiac, entrancing web of fiction that sprawls across time and continents, bringing to life a fascinating time, and portraying a driven, fame-seeking Audubon who’ll stop at nothing to fulfill his dream, the realization of his bird book, in which he has vowed to paint every species in North America from nature…. Everything about Creation is elegant: Govier’s gentle, thoughtful, insightful prose to the physical production of the book itself. Into a small space, that tiny sliver of time and place, Govier has created a universe that abounds with truth.” -- The Hamilton Spectator

“What a prize [Govier] has waylaid here…. A romance about book production? Absolutely. After reading a brilliant chapter on an engraver’s efforts to reproduce an image, you’ll never again pick up a book of prints without marveling over what it took to make the images happen for you.” -- The Vancouver Sun

“A nutritious and satisfying historical novel that has the courage not to be constrained by the strict historical record…. Govier’s prose is pellucid here and in patches downright luminescent. The book is also auseful gloss on the recent renaissance in Newfoundland writing.” -- George Fetherling, Vancouver Sun

“A fascinating read.” -- The Edmonton Journal

Creation gives a vivid picture of the geography of coastal Labrador, where nature is beautiful but violent. With its blend of historic fact and brilliantly imagined possibilities, Creation is a striking accomplishment by a skilled novelist.” -- Chronicle-Herald (Halifax)

“In Creation, novelist Katherine Govier imagines one summer in the life of John James Audubon. And what an imagination -- if the famed bird artist was even half the man Govier paints, he was remarkable indeed…. It’s an enthralling read right from the start…. Fascinating … an adventure-filled tale of a visionary whose revelations on this Canadian journey foretold a future that held destruction and extinction.” -- The Daily News (Halifax)


From the Hardcover edition.