Thursday, December 15, 2011

BIRD CLOUD by Annie Proulx

I thought this memoir would be similar to Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun, and it was, in a way. Of course, this book is about the building of new house in Wyoming, as opposed to restoring an old villa in Tuscany, but many of the problems are the same: acquiring the property, poor workmanship, budget overruns, plumbing disasters, the difficulty of living in a space that is under construction, etc. In both books, the most reliable and skilled workers become almost like family. However, Bird Cloud opens with an overly long section about the author's father's family history, and this just seemed like filler to me. The middle section is about the process of designing and building the house, and the pace of the book picks up after the genealogy section ends. The final section is devoted to birds on the property, and I have mixed feelings about that section. I think she wanted to make a point about the fact that no matter how much effort and expense you put into building a house that is friendly to the environment, you are almost certain to disrupt some habitats. In one instance, a flock of birds (I forget the species) stopped feeding near the house because the landscapers replaced the weeds with a native grass. The finale is an homage to the bald and golden eagles that take up residence near the house and is immensely sad, while at the same time depicting their resilience. Certainly the fact that the house is unreachable in winter is a showstopper, but possibly her guilt over its impact on the wildlife may taint her love of the surrounding beauty enough to force her to sell it. We'll see…

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