The Feather Thief

This is another #unpopularopinion, but I did not enjoy this book. In fact, the more I think about it, the less I like it. I listened to the audiobook, narrated by MacLeod Andrews and was frequently annoyed by his overacting. All those memes you see mocking William Shatner in Star Trek? They would suit this narrator. But, listening to the audiobook is the only way I even finished this story, as I can guarantee that I would have bailed on the print version.

I don’t know what I expected, if I even had detailed expectations. I knew nothing more about this than what you’d guess from the long subtitle. It was recommended to me as a choice to fill the PopSugar 2018 prompt for a book about a heist. It is that, at least ostensibly. The catalyst for this tale is the theft from the Tring museum in London of nearly 300 rare bird carcasses by a young musician with a passion for Victorian fly-tying (as in making lures for fly-fishing). What this book provides is excellent detail on Victorian era naturalists and conservation efforts. What this book also provides is more detail on women’s fashion history, particularly as it pertains to feathered millinery, and more information about fly-tying and the feather underground community than you could ever need. Feather underground community? Yes, apparently so. I now know more about fly-tying than I ever wanted to know.

One thing that continues to bother me hours after I finished the audiobook is just how critical the author is of the fly-tying hobbyists. He treats the entire community as if they were all a bunch of crooked people, intent on destroying bird species simply to recreate the fantastic works of art made in the Victorian era before wildlife conservation became “a thing”. Are there crazed, obsessive individuals in that community? Of course, just like there are obsessive, crazed fans of nearly any hobby. But to treat all fly-tying hobbyists as if they had personally stolen museum specimens, slaughtered birds in the Amazon, or purchased stolen goods, is not just wrong, it is irresponsible.

~ by Rachel on December 12, 2018.

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