From the acclaimed author of Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery, Audubon’s Watch is a brazen performance” (New York Times Book Review) inspired by a brief journal entry made by the artist and ornithologist John James Audubon. This richly atmospheric novel traces the paths of two men whose lives are inextricably linked by the tragic events of a single night. Part historical novel, part Victorian murder mystery, Audubon’s Watch peels away the familiar legend portion of the biography to explore the private mysteries of memory, remorse, and the redemption of pain” (Los Angeles Times). This is a mesmerizing tale, and in the end, the subject matter of Brown’s material . . . permits him to capture, in midflight as it were, the hummingbird pulse of the human heart” (Orlando Sentinel).
John James Audubon is seen through a dark lens in this fictional take on a particularly rocky period in his tumultuous life. Told from the perspective of the ornithologist in his ailing old age, Brown's brooding psychological novel chronicles in complicated, gothic style an episode that has long haunted its protagonist. At the age of 36, Audubon leaves his wife and children behind in Cincinnati and sets off for New Orleans to begin his quixotic life's work, "to identify, observe, and draw every species of this country's winged inhabitants." He secures a position as a tutor on a Louisiana plantation, but his relatively comfortable life is disturbed by the arrival of visitors. Dr. Emile Gautreaux, an anatomist and voyeur "seeking to explain the body's exquisite grandeur," has been eager to meet Audubon, and in fact wishes to become his patron. This is good news, but Audubon is shaken when he sees Dr. Gautreaux's beautiful wife, Myra, step down from their carriage: he has met her before, in less than respectable circumstances. The very night of the couple's arrival, Myra dies suddenly and mysteriously, and in a prolonged scene, Audubon and Dr. Gautreaux stand watch over her corpse. Gautreaux, whose morally compromised life Brown examines meticulously, is as much the protagonist of this novel as Audubon. His and Audubon's guilty secrets, suspicions and shameful desires are given full airing in a story adorned with bird images and mildly graphic sexual encounters. There are few moments of humor or cheer in this stream-of-consciousness study of two men whose genuine interests in science and nature were ruined by lust and its consequent remorse, but Brown (Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery)provides a delicate rendition of gloomy themes. (Sept. 14) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.