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Posted May 17, 2009
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Powerful novel of the effect of the coming Holocaust on the life of a museum guard and those he loves in Halifax, Nova Scotia
Howard Norman's "The Museum Guard" brings us a compelling, page-turning, quirky story told by a museum guard named DeFoe Russett, whose parents were tragically killed in a zeppelin crash, and who was, as a result, raised by his uncle Edward in the Lord Nelson Hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia. DeFoe's "family" is the staff of the hotel where he has lived for so many years. DeFoe's life is a narrow one. He has never left Halifax, has followed his uncle in his choice of careers, and in no way considers himself worldly like his uncle, who spends nights boozing and chasing women, and may or may not show up to work the next morning at the art museum where both he and his nephew work.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
DeFoe falls in love with a half-Jewish woman, Imogen Linny, who works at the local Jewish cemetery. DeFoe's experience with women is limited, and his relationship with Imogen, after two years, has become strained. It is upon the appearance in the museum of a painting entitled "Jewess on a Street in Amsterdam" that Imogen starts to change drastically and pulls further away from DeFoe, herself, and reality, her world becoming that of the woman in the painting. And all this while word of the Nazis development of their world-dominating machine of terror is being reported daily from Europe by a radio journalist named Ovid Lamartine, whose accounts Edward listens to religiously every night.
This is a first-class novel, one that will keep you turning the pages. Its unique characters and underlying tragedies fill the novel with the stuff of daily life in 1938-1939. The impending horrors of the coming Nazi occupation in Europe, while seemingly faraway to most in Halifax, Novia Scotia, in such times is not seen so by Imogen and Edward, affecting them both profoundly in different ways, transforming Imogen and taking her into the center of the approaching Nazi storm. It is a story both of a young man in search of his own life, living in the horrific aftermath of the loss of his own parents in one tragic holocaustic moment, and the horrors approaching the world in the late 1930's where even half a world away from the coming storm, there appears to be no safe haven.
You will get to know, love, and weep real tears for the characters in "The Museum Guard." It is a novel about holocausts affecting individuals and humanity, the lines between art and reality, and about a world colored by madness. An awesome read by a gifted writer and one that is highly recommended.
Mitchell Waldman, author of the novel, "A Face in the Moon."
Posted January 1, 2000
A Museum in the Streets of Halifax
This book was a 'page-turner', but in the oddest way. It was strange to me that I have the same first name as the main character, Imogen Linny. The bizzare transformation of Imogen Linny into 'A Jewess on the Streets of Amsterdam' was interesting, but what puzzled me was the art historian and museum curator's choice to bring Imogen to meet the painter of that piece. Perhaps they were too caught up in a dream of adventurousness that they neglected the emotions of others--which seemed to be a mistake of everyone of the major characters in this novel. Even the narrator, DeFoe, though not seemingly as adventurous, makes this same mistake in his quest for his dream of perfection.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.