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The Museum Guard

Set in late-1930s Halifax, Nova Scotia, Howard Norman’s cerebral, naggingly improbable third novel, The Museum Guard, centers on a straitlaced museum guard, DeFoe, and his beautiful, unbalanced girlfriend, Imogen. Imogen grows obsessed with a painting in DeFoe’s charge, Jewess on a Street in Amsterdam: She demands that DeFoe steal it, and decides she is the portrait’s melancholy subject and therefore must travel to war-threatened Holland to marry the artist. Meanwhile, the museum’s kindly curators believe Imogen isn’t crazy but is bravely reinventing her identity, and they egg her on to a predictably tragic finale. Throughout, Norman strains to dress up ideas and ideals as characters; the result feels like a literary still life. B-

The Museum Guard
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