The Museum Guard

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Overview

Halifax, Nova Scotia 1938. Orphaned by a Zeppelin crash, DeFoe works with Edward as a guard in Halifax's three-room Glace Museum. By day, he and his uncle break the silence of the museum with heated conversations that show them to be "opposites at life". By night, DeFoe spends his time trying to keep the affection of Imogen Linny, the young caretaker of the small Jewish cemetery. Their relationship is a most provocative example of unrequited love. When the Dutch painting Jewess on a Street in Amsterdam arrives at...
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Overview

Halifax, Nova Scotia 1938. Orphaned by a Zeppelin crash, DeFoe works with Edward as a guard in Halifax's three-room Glace Museum. By day, he and his uncle break the silence of the museum with heated conversations that show them to be "opposites at life". By night, DeFoe spends his time trying to keep the affection of Imogen Linny, the young caretaker of the small Jewish cemetery. Their relationship is a most provocative example of unrequited love. When the Dutch painting Jewess on a Street in Amsterdam arrives at the museum, Imogen becomes obsessed and abandons her life on favour of the ennobled one she imagines for its subject- even though being a Jew in Amsterdam is becoming more and more perilous as the clouds of World War II begin to gather.

As the true story of the Jewess emerges, Imogen leaves DeFoe and enters the orbit of Edward and his own fascination with the horrible news being broadcast from Europe. Drawing together the mysteries of identity and self-determination and the ominous aura of the late 1930s, The Museum Guard is an examination of the desire to step out of the everyday and into action- and of that desire's often tragic consequences. Like Howard Norman's previous novel, The Bird Artist, this is a work that will linger in the memory long after its startling conclusion.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A haunting story of obsession and loss."  - The Toronto Star

"A world where the drama of life can overstep time and space -- and souls are lost, found and reinvented. The Maritime city...becomes a fog-bound, claustrophobic cross-roads in which domestic drama and the great sweep of history intersect."  - Maclean's

"[The Museum Guard] fairly glimmers with the originality of his complexly tragic vision...The denouement...has a Gothic power, a power intensified by the very leanness and clarity of Howard's prose."  - The Halifax Chronicle-Herald

"Artfully combines beauty and dread on every page...Exquisite...intensely beautiful and oddly disturbing."  - The Hamilton Spectator

"A comedy of doomed love--His take on the many ways we kid ourselves is spot-on."  - Saturday Night

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312204273
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 9/1/1999
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Meet the Author

Howard Norman has lived, worked and travelled throughout the Canadian Arctic and subarctic for many years, writing about language and culture, wildlife and natural history. All his novels are set in Canada, and the first two, The Northern Lights (set in Manitoba and Toronto) and The Bird Artist (set in turn-of-the-century Newfoundland) were finalists for the National Book Award in the US. He has also edited Northern Tales, Folktales from Canada, Greenland and Siberia, and a collection of arctic folktales, The Girl Who Dreamed Only Geese. The Mermaid Theatre Company (Nova Scotia) will tour a drama for children based on the latter in their 1999-2000 season.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    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.

    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."

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    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  No   Report this review
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