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The Conjurer's Bird

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  1,256 Ratings  ·  187 Reviews
Long ago, Fitz and Gabby were together. His work on extinct species was about to make him world-famous. Now his career is almost extinct, Gabby reappears for his help tracing a stuffed Bird once owned by 18th Century naturalist Joseph Banks. He must uncover the identity of the woman Banks loved, disappeared from history like the specimen he is hunting.
Paperback, 390 pages
Published August 22nd 2006 by Three Rivers Press (CA) (first published November 7th 2005)
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May 03, 2012 Adrien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book, 2012
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
Mar 16, 2011 Lowed rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-read-2011
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
Sep 08, 2008 Karen rated it really liked it
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
Apr 23, 2008 P. rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fictive
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
Dec 12, 2010 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 04, 2014 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 04, 2009 Rory rated it did not like it
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.
May 19, 2015 Isabel rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
P. 378 - "Meu caro Solander, escreveu (...), Disseste-me uma vez que o passado deixa uma sombra. Viste muitas coisas que eu não pude ver. Mas vejo agora que, para lá dessa sombra, há uma luz do sol, há arvores e folhas.
Ele tem uns olhos verdes tão lindos, Solander."
Maria Beatriz
Dec 10, 2014 Maria Beatriz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: A todos os que gostam de um bom mistério
Tenho consciência de que o meu perfil enquanto leitora tem vindo a alterar-se ao longo do tempo. Se há cerca de dois anos bastava encantar-me com a capa de um livro para iniciar a sua leitura, hoje sou bem mais crítica em relação às obras que escolho. A minha presente necessidade de conhecer inúmeros pormenores acerca de um livro antes de decidir se devo lê-lo, ajuda-me a escolher obras com as quais me identifico diminuindo assim, os sentimentos de frustração e desilusão que experiencio ao ler a ...more
Feb 19, 2009 Stephen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 17, 2010 Marianne rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 11, 2014 Pat rated it liked it
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
Jul 05, 2015 Sharyl rated it liked it

I enjoyed this one. The background story, about John Banks, is much more interesting than the present day plot, and better developed. I thought that discrepancy made it a bit uneven, but it was still a good read.

Rosanna Miranda o'leary
Jan 23, 2015 Rosanna Miranda o'leary rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. Though ultimately it's a love story, it has enough of a historical aspect to it along with mystery and suspense that I didn't want to put it down.
Mar 12, 2015 Anna rated it really liked it
Well written story, which was at times irksomely vague. A vagueness I thought was caused either by my misplacing the book partway through my reading it or because there was three stories intertwined within too few pages.

Either way the ending proved to disappoint me until I then read the Historical Notes and I realised the reason for all the vagueness.

I'd recommend this one.
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;

Oct 15, 2014 Farhan rated it liked it
In 1774, on Captain Cook's second expedition to the South Pacific, a single specimen of a thrushlike bird was captured and preserved. It was named 'the mysterious bird of Ulieta' since no other specimen of this bird was ever sighted again. In this novel, Martin Davies fictionalizes a particular time in the life of Joseph Banks, a leading naturalist of his time, and tells another story, set in the present, where an ornithologist searches for the specimen of the bird which was last seen in Banks's ...more
Maggie White
May 21, 2011 Maggie White rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 12, 2013 Deanne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ultra Violet
May 11, 2015 Ultra Violet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this, it's a sweet read with an engaging story and characters.
Jun 14, 2015 Stefan rated it really liked it
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.
Glenda L
Mar 04, 2012 Glenda L rated it really liked it
This book was unique. I loved all the fascinating details about natural history and the great explorers of years past. A mysterious bird disappears 200 years ago and some unscrupulous people are trying to get their hands on it today. The quest becomes a fascinating journey into the life of an eighteenth-century British naturalist whose mysterious love affair almost costs him everything.
I started reading this on a Thomson flight back from La Palma and I really struggled to concentrate. This may have been the planes fault as I sometimes can't do anything on them but sit there. I kept picking the book up, putting it down. I then fell asleep and was woken because my boyfriend closed my mouth for me *embarrassing*. Decided I couldn't risk sleeping with my mouth open and forced myself to read the book. I still couldn't get into it.

Unfortunately I did struggle with book even when
Jan 16, 2015 Leslie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fun piece of fiction that was playing on the mystery in the gaps of history. It started with a couple of questions about an extinct bird and a natural philosopher who had studied it, and wove it into a present-day search for the preserved specimen. It was engaging and warm.
Oct 23, 2015 Victoria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic read. The book is a blend of fact and fiction regarding Sir Joseph Banks and is, in fact, partially set in Lincolnshire.

It was the author's first novel. I shall have to see what Martin Davies has written since.
Jan 05, 2015 Gloria rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an interesting book set both in the present and in the 1770's when Joseph Banks joined Cook's expedition and discovered a new species of bird. Only one was ever seen, captured, stuffed and returned to England where it sat on Banks' desk for years before disappearing forever. John Fitzgerald sees a painting of it done during Cook's voyage and sets out to see if he can find the specimen. The story flits back and forth with each chapter between the two time frames. I found the descriptions ...more
Julie  Durnell
May 27, 2015 Julie Durnell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was so enjoyable, I loved the moving back and forth between the two stories, done so well that it was not hard to follow. It is just a captivating read!
Oct 11, 2015 Marisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Love preserves all :)
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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
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“we rambled happily about the way things in the past come to be recorded, about the way Time takes things away from us if we don’t fight to keep them.” 0 likes
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