Synopses & Reviews
Defoe Russet, orphaned at age nine by a zeppelin crash, has grown up in the care of his magnetic uncle Edward. Now twenty-five, he works as a guard at the Glace Museum in Halifax: his uncle is the other guard. DeFoe is caught up in a tormenting love affair with Imogen Linny, the caretaker of the small Jewish cemetery. Imogen is continually wracked by headaches and a sense of profound disillusionment with her life's lack of passion. When the Dutch painting Jewess on a Street in Amsterdam arrives at the museum, Imogen becomes obsessed and abandons her Life in favor of the one she imagines for the painting's subject -- even as being a Jew in Amsterdam is becoming more and more perilous as the clouds of World War II begin to gather in Europe.
As the story of the painting's subject emerges, Imogen removes herself from DeFoe and enters the orbit of Edward and his obsession with the horrific news being broadcast from Europe. The inevitable collision of art and reality is surprising and prophetic. Drawing together the mysteries of identity and self-determination and the ominous aura of Europe in the late 1930s, The Museum Guard is also an examination of the drive to step out of the everyday and into action -- and of that drive's often tragic consequences. Like The Bird Artist, this is a work that will linger in the memory long after its startling conclusion.
"A spellbinding tale about love and identity. By a longshot, Norman's best book, thrilling and utterly memorable."—Michael Upchurch, The Chicago Tribune
"Deftly mysterious . . . [The Museum Guard] fairly glimmers with the originality of his complexly tragic vision."—Richard Berstein, The New York Times
"The Museum Guard is a truly literary story, rich in language and character, incredibly dynamic and cinematic. The remarkable end will haunt you long after you close this brilliant book."—Georgia Jones-Davis, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"The Museum Guard displays magical strengths."—Richard Eder, The Los Angeles Times
"[Norman's work] proves exquisite like pieces of folk art whose simplicity postpones a sly impact."—Thomas Mallon
Orphaned by a zeppelin crash at age nine, DeFoe Russet was raised in a Halifax, Nova Scotia, hotel by his magnetic uncle Edward. Now thirty, DeFoe works with Edward as a guard in Halifax's three-room Glace Museum. He and his uncle disturb the silence of the museum with heated conversations that prove them to be "opposites at life." Away from the museum, DeFoe courts the affection of Imogen Linny, the young caretaker of the small Jewish cemetery. Everything changes when Imogen, inspired by the arrival of a painting, Jewess on a Street in Amsterdam
, abandons Halifax for the ennobled life she imagines for the painting's subject—even amid the growing perilousness of being a Jew in Amsterdam. Set against the impending events of World War II, The Museum Guard
, the second book of his Canadian trilogy, explores the mysteries of identity and self-determination, and the desire to step out of the ordinary into an alluring and dangerous sphere of action.
About the Author
is a National Book Award finalist for both The Northern Lights
and The Bird Artist
. His other works include The Chauffeur
, a collection of stories, and The Haunting of L.,
his most recent novel. He received a Lannan Award in fiction. He resides in Vermont and Washington D.C.