Fans of Howard Norman, the internationally acclaimed author of The Hunting of L and The Bird Artist and a two-time National Book Award finalist, will find in his latest novel -- an intense and intriguingly unconventional love story -- all the hallmarks of this masterly writer: sparkling yet spare language, a totally compelling air of mystery spread over our workaday world, and ability to capture the metaphorical heartbeat at the center of our ...
Fans of Howard Norman, the internationally acclaimed author of The Hunting of L and The Bird Artist and a two-time National Book Award finalist, will find in his latest novel -- an intense and intriguingly unconventional love story -- all the hallmarks of this masterly writer: sparkling yet spare language, a totally compelling air of mystery spread over our workaday world, and ability to capture the metaphorical heartbeat at the center of our lives.
Like many of Howard Norman’s celebrated novels, Devotion begins with an announcement of a crime: on August 19, 1985, David Kozol and his father-in-law engaged in “assault by mutual affray.” Norman sets out to explore a great mystery: why seemingly quiet, contained people lose control. David and Maggie's story seemed straightforward enough; they met in a hotel lobby in London. For David, the simple fact was love at first sight. For Maggie, the attraction was similarly sudden and unprecedented in intensity. Their love affair, "A fugue state of amorous devotion," turned into a whirlwind romance and marriage. So what could possibly enrage David enough that he would strike at the father of his new bride? Why would William, a gentle man who looks after an estate -- and its flock of swans -- in Nova Scotia, be so angry at the man who has just married his beloved only child, Maggie? And what would lead Maggie to believe that David has been unfaithful to her? In his signature style -- haunting and evocative -- Norman lays bare the inventive stupidities people are capable of when wounded and confused.
At its core, Devotion is an elegantly constructed, never sentimental examination of love: romantic love (and its flip side, hate), filial love at its most tender, and, of course, love for the vast open spaces of Nova Scotia.
Norman's intriguing, if at times baffling, sixth novel opens with a fight between Canadians David Kozol and his father-in-law, William Field, outside a hotel in London "on the morning of August 19, 1985." That date is important-it's just days after Kozol's marriage to William's daughter, Maggie-and an ensuing accident seriously injures William, the caretaker of a Nova Scotia estate on the north shore of the Bay of Fundy. The result is a particularly strange domestic situation: Kozol assumes William's duties on the estate; Maggie refuses to see her husband; William vows revenge on his son-in-law. Uncovering why the men were fighting and what separates the young couple drives the plot. Norman (The Bird Artist) uses the avian world as a counterpoint to the human one. William is devoted to the swans on the estate; Maggie wants in her own life the kind of devotion the swans embody. This quirky story deals with a powerful theme: how love endures despite our best efforts to sabotage it. Author tour. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
If one accepts the idea that love is generally a very messy sort of thing, then one might also be willing to accept the unusual ways in which people structure that messiness to make it fit into their otherwise orderly lives. Veteran author Norman (The Museum Guard) offers a brief novel that follows two people who fall in love too quickly, their impulsiveness giving way to long-term consequences and the setting of some unusual rules for love as they see it. Set primarily in Nova Scotia, the story involves Maggie and David, Maggie's rules, David's character flaws, Maggie's father, and a bevy of swans. Both the swans and the people require highly specialized caretaking. As for Maggie and David, once their damaged love has been organized in a certain way, it is nearly impossible to change things; they hold on to their wounded psyches for dear life. The story is filled with ambivalence: How does one reconcile one's completely idealized devotion when faced with the inevitable human frailties of the other? Just as often happens in real life, the ambivalence in this story doesn't get resolved. Norman explores a treacherous yet familiar emotional landscape with consequences that may appeal to readers who enjoy the interior fiction of Alice Munro or Annie Proulx. Purchase as interest warrants. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/06.]-Susanne Wells, P.L. of Cincinnati & Hamilton Cty. Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.
A fledgling artist's attempts to give design and coherence to his personal life are the subject of this appealing if odd sixth novel from the free-range Vermont author. What we first learn of protagonist David Kozol is that he had, during his London honeymoon, been found-by his new father-in-law William Field-in a hotel room with another woman. This resulted in a scuffle during which William was struck by a taxi and severely injured. The novel then shifts forward and backward, depicting David's developing fascination with disturbingly unconventional Czech photographer Josef Sudek, his soaringly romantic chance meeting with Maggie Field (publicist for a traveling chamber orchestra) and the impulsive marriage that brought David (a Vancouver native) to Nova Scotia and the rural estate of its absentee owners (Holocaust survivors) Isador and Stefania Tecosky, where William caretakes and acts as guardian to a flock of (rather intemperate) swans. Following William's "accident," David becomes the caretaker for both the estate and William, maintaining a wary detente with the aggrieved older man-who eventually makes good on his repeated promise, "I'll knock your lights out." David is an appealing, credible, flawed young man (William thinks he's a "man who doesn't have the slightest notion of how to handle life"). The novel is also flawed, however, by overabundant exposition and occasionally awkward shifts from present- to past-tense narration. But it's filled with engaging characters (the voluble charmer Maggie, sharp-witted local veterinarian Naomi Bloor, inept burglar Tobias Knox) and oddball details and incidents (e.g., a house-trashing perpetrated by "pissed-off swans"). And the swans are ateasing complex image-of beauty, fidelity, mystery, the souls we like to think we possess and the kind of fragility that invites violation. Vintage Norman, though not as good as The Bird Artist (1994) or The Museum Guard (1998). Agent: Melanie Jackson/Melanie Jackson Agency
Two of Howard Norman’s novels, The Northern Lights (1987) and The Bird Artist (1994), were nominated for the National Book Award. His other novels include The Museum Guard, The Haunting of L,Devotion, and What is Left the Daughter. His books have been translated into twelve languages. Norman is the recipient of a Lannan Award in fiction, and he teaches at the University of Maryland.