Jul 7, 2008

Birdman of Alcatraz

The Story of Robert Stroud
by Thomas E. Gaddis

Robert Stroud was sentenced for murder in 1912. His original term was for twelve years, but ended up being fifty-four, most of which were spent in solitary confinement. Despite only having a third-grade education, Stroud became an expert on bird behavior and diseases, from keeping and studying canaries in his prison cell. It all began when he picked up three baby sparrows which had fallen to the ground in the prison yard. He raised and trained his canaries, but was particularly interested in diseases, and how to cure them. He wrote books about the birds, too. I was absolutely astonished at all the things Stroud did while in a prison cell, and the things which he invented or made. And that he was allowed to keep the canaries at all. He raised hundreds of canaries during his time in prison. Although Birdman of Alcatraz is bound to have some inaccuracies (the most glaring being that Stroud never kept birds while at Alcatraz, but only when he was in the Leavenworth facility), it is an utterly fascinating read.

Rating: 4/5                        223 pages, 1955


Bybee said...

I just watched this movie for the first time and wanted to read the book...I had that moment during the movie when I said aloud...hey, he's really the birdman of Leavenworth! I'm curious about his wife: Did she really just go away quietly, as he asked her to?

Jeane said...

I don't remember that detail in the book; I'm trying to think what incident you're refering to. His family (according to Gaddis) continually blamed her for instigating the crime. He was adamant about her innocence. Charges against her were dropped due to lack of evidence. She wrote letters to him during his first two years in prison, and visited him once, until his family intefered and stopped the correspondence.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love birds, I have a flock of budgies that I live with and I've raised several babies.
Thanks for this review, definitely sounds like a book I want to read!