The Conjurer's Bird
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The Conjurer's Bird

3.67 of 5 stars 3.67  ·  rating details  ·  920 ratings  ·  141 reviews
In 1774, an unusual bird was spotted on Captain Cook's second expedition to the South Seas. This single specimen was captured, preserved, and brought back to England and no other bird of its kind was ever seen again. The bird was given to naturalist Joseph Banks, who displayed it proudly in his collection until it too disappeared. Were it not for a colored drawing created...more
Paperback, 390 pages
Published August 22nd 2006 by Broadway Books (first published 2005)
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This is my absolute favorite kind of book -- historical research! Like The Historian and Possession (though not *quite* as good as either), most of the novel is spent in archives and libraries tracking down obscure bits of paper. I personally love this kind of thing, and could read about looking for lost material all day long.
The pacing of this novel was excellent -- it kept me turning pages quickly. With that said, that's partly why it is not quite as good as the above mentioned novels -- it w...more
In 1774, an unusual bird was spotted on Captain Cook's second expedition to the South Seas. This single specimen was captured, preserved, and brought back to Englandand no other bird of its kind was ever seen again. The bird was given to naturalist Joseph Banks, who displayed it proudly in his collection until it too disappeared. Were it not for a colored drawing created by the ship's artist, it would seem that the Mysterious Bird of Ulieta had never existed.

Two hundred years later, naturalist J...more
I really liked this book and the switching bewteeen the two different timelines each chapter. I loved both era's but probably enjoyed the historical pieces the best - the way of life, the stigma associated with a young woman not being a virgin and its implications for the rest of her life. The adventures overseas to draw wildlife (no cameras), and the inability to communicate quickly with people on the other side of the world (no phones or even telegrams) made me focus on how very much has chang...more
I sort of hate going into all the little criticisms I think of when reading, because if the story is engaging, then I don't want my criticisms to overshadow it. Then again, if the writing and story were really engaging, then I wouldn't have time to think of criticisms while reading. So: writers of historical fiction, please give me more detail. While this book had a really interesting (and mostly based on true primary source stuff) premise, it ended up feeling a little thin because the author ha...more
You know when teachers tell you you are smart and talented but lazy? I've heard it many times. I am sure many of you heard it as well and I am absolutely positive Martin Davies heard it more than once.
He is a talented guy. He managed to create a mystery story that revolves around a stuffed bird. And not even a colourful, exotic one, just a plain grey bird. To be fair, the bird is now extinct and the stuffed specimen is the only specimen in the world. And it is missing. In fact, it has been missi...more
A short review, I'm constrained by time.

I loved The Conjuror's Bird. It's a mystery with two stories running parrallel, one set in the 18th century and the other in modern day. It's based on a true story and the modern part hands on the hunt for a valuable and important stuffed extinct bird. The earlier part of the tale is about how the bird came to be in a particular family, and it explores a delicate and rare love story for which the bird is in part a metaphor. The writing style is easy and gr...more
This was not nearly as light as the title or cover suggested it might be. Two narratives, one set now and written in 1st person and one set in 18thC written in the third. Together they combined to create a satisfying mystery, love story and thriller. Enjoyed it enough to pick up Martin Davies' second novel today.
What a lovely book - I suspect it will stimulate much discussion at book club at the end of the week. It took me just over 24 hours to read its 307 pages, not bad going, and not rushed, just pleasurable. There is romance, but in the background. There is mystery, deception and detection, corruption and greed, consideration of social status and mores, natural history and art, history and the seeking of information from public records, the necessity of knowing what you are looking for, be it fact o...more
This was a complete chore to read. Boring first person narrator finds himself immersed in a boring mystery/wild goose chase (the wild goose being the mysterious Bird of Ulieta), paralleled with the story of a boring 18th century circumnavigator's boring relationship with his boring mistress.
The Bay Thrush. If you know about birds, even a lot about birds, you probably never heard of this one. But it's real.

"The Conjurer’s Bird," a historic novel/mystery is about a little-known, long-extinct bird. The novel toggles together two story lines: one centered on the famous eighteenth-century English naturalist Joseph Banks, while the second follows a fictitious modern-day lecturer, taxidermist and extinct bird expert named Fitzgerald. The mystery at the crux of the story is the disappeara...more
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I've been reading The Conjurer's Bird by Martin Davies. The bird was real. Now Extinct. ;( It was found by Cook's 2nd expedition to Australia & Pacific. A drawing of it is in the London Natural History Museum. The painting held by the Museum is a poignant reminder of the
irreversible damage that human colonization has inflicted on many
Pacific Ocean islands.'

You can see the drawing of the bird at the London Natural History Museum here;

Maggie White
Fantastic read! Had been waiting to read this for a few years now. Found a copy in my local Fish & Chip shop as they have books for charity and was ecstatic!!! Coul not believe my luck.
Story of the search for the mysterious bird of Ulieta that was mentioned in Captain Cook's log. Set in two different timelines and the two run nicely parrallel with each other.
A book of mystery, intrigue, love and relationships.
Very nicely written in a style that makes you want to keep turning the pages.
Really enjoyed the mix of contemporary and history. The two stories which run alongside each other and the ending which was a surprise.
Also appeals to my inner genealogist, I've got as far back as the 1500's in one branch, and if the rumours are true I could get back to 1066.
However back to The Conjuror's bird, Davies has taken what is known as fact and weaved a story about characters that are real. Joseph Banks did exist, as did Cook and the bird. Makes this seem almost believeable.
Martin Davies has written an intelligent, thoughtful and exciting novel. I especially enjoyed how the author incorporated the life of Joseph Banks and the mysterious bird of Ulieta into the story. The well-developed characters, strong narrative, detailed settings (the British museum and the small English towns) and the satisfying conclusion made this one of the best historical mysteries I’ve read lately.
Closer to 2.5..a decent historical novel which dives back and forth from present time to the 1700s to tell the tale of the non-fictional naturalist Joseph Banks and his expedition with Cook to the Pacific islands and his love affair with an unsuitable woman who shared his passion for nature.The modern thread of the story is an attempt by a naturalist,still healing from familial sorrow,who is intrigued by the legend of a rare bird found by Banks on the voyage which may still exist somewhere in En...more
A really good book. Not a gripping tale, but worth reading. It is romance and mystery all rolled into one, with historical bits adding up to its story. Two stories in different time and setting but related to each other.
An unusual little mystery keeps this story moving. Interestingly peopled and surprising. A quiet book with many subtle delights.
PJ Ebbrell
Think Possession by A S Byatt mixed with Ornithology. Enjoyable romp. I liked the twist at the end.
A quick and thoughtless mystery/romance. Vaguely intriguing plot. Vaguely intriguing characters.
Mary Lowe
Engaging story. Love the tale between two periods of time and the historic links.
I know I'm not the only one who'll compare it to Possession. Is this a type of book, a sub-genre? These books set in two timelines where the people in the present are trying to figure out some sort of mystery in the history? Lord Byron's Novel: The Evening Land is another example.
Just found this on a second-hand shelf (right after I expounded upon my virtuous ability to resist buying any more books, riiiiiight). It's an "uncorrected proof" so I hope that doesn't mean it's full of crazy mistakes, although if it is that might be encouraging to this aspiring author. It's getting lukewarm reviews here, but I'm not going to let that discourage me. The design, chapter titles, premise and first paragraph are all so lovely that I'm just going to ASSUME that the content is also e...more
The "Richard and Judy book club" sticker on the front made me quite dubious about this book. The £1 price tag, on the other hand, tempted me, along the promise of mystery and adventure.

The Conjuror's Bird is a novel set in two times: the present and the late 1700s. The narratives unfold in parallel, with a piece of present always followed by a piece of past. In the present, our hero is a taxidermist / specialist in extinct birds / academic / former conservationist, Fitz. In the past, our heroes...more
Nov 07, 2008 Rosie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Nature enthusiasts, history lovers
Shelves: books-i-own
This book interested me from the mysterious sounding blurb and the title.

It changes between two different times to tell the story of The Mysterious Bird of Ulieta, the only one of its kind ever found which was only to go missing again for over 200 years. It tells the story of the people surrounding it, before it was first discovered and the story of the people who are looking for it despite all the odds pointing to it's non-existence.

I enjoyed this book, it was neither very bad nor very good,...more
Jun 15, 2013 Patience rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People who enjoy historical romance
By all accounts, the Mysterious Bird of Ulieta, discovered in 1774, doesn’t exist. A single specimen was captured in the South Seas, preserved, and gifted to naturalist Joseph Banks, where it remained in his collection until it disappeared one day, never to be seen again. Except for a drawing by Georg Forster, no trace of the bird could be found. Two hundred years later, it continues to mystify naturalists.

The first thing you need to know about The Conjurer’s Bird is that it is not an exciting b...more
The Conjurer's Bird is an amusing way to pass the time. It's definitely not a gripping thriller on the caliber of Stephen King or Dan Simmons, although it might be a step above Dean Koontz. Martin Davies has unearthed an extremely interesting piece of history and wrapped it up in a somewhat interesting novel. Too bad none of it's true. As it stands, Davies tells the story of a character who is not particularly interesting who is investigating the story of one who is.
Based on the disappearance of...more
Louise Wilson
This book beautifully combines all the genres so dear to my heart as a family history writer - history, mystery and romance. Keen family history researchers will identify strongly with Davies’ account of turning up at Archives offices at opening time and sitting there all day searching for the identity of the mysterious 'Miss B'. Davies perfectly depicts the excitement in the search for the identity of an elusive forebear.

On Goodreads there are plenty of descriptions of the premise of this book,...more
I found this book while searching for my next read at the local library. The title caught my attention because I am a birder and love birds. And after reading the description of the plot it intrigued me.

Based an actual bird discovered on one of Captain Cooks expeditons and never seen again. The only specimen of the bird was lost and a fictional plot has been woven around that fact. This book is historical, it is a mystery and it is a romance. The author keeps the suspense active throughout as t...more
I loved this book. Was a bit skeptical at first, as I hate to jump on the Richard and Judy bandwagon! I also, on the whole, dislike male narrators (I know, totally subjective).
Well, this novel is full of surprising twists and turns, it keeps you guessing until the final few pages as to what happened to the mysterious bird and Banks' mistress (don't worry, they aren't the same thing!).
In addition the dual narrative, one set in the past and one in the present, worked effectively. It didn't just fi...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Martin Davies is a British author. He has written two novels about Sherlock Holmes' housekeeper - Mrs. Hudson and The Spirits' Curse, and one about Joseph Banks and the Mysterious Bird of Ulieta, entitled The Conjuror's Bird, all of which have been published. He is a senior...more
More about Martin Davies...
The Unicorn Road The Year After Mrs. Hudson and the Malabar Rose Mrs. Hudson and the Spirits' Curse Havana Sleeping

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