by Doris Schwerin
When I picked up this book at a used sale, I thought it looked familiar and perhaps I'd read it a long time ago. After getting fifty pages in I realized I tried it once from the library and never got far. This time I made myself finish, if only for the pigeons, but pretty quickly found why I gave up the first time.
Diary of a Pigeon Watcher isn't quite what the title implied to me. Yes, it's about a New York woman's observations of some pigeons that take up housekeeping on a ledge outside her window, but that's only a small part of the book. At first it was about the pigeons, her struggles dealing with breast cancer, and flashbacks to her childhood (most often triggered by things she observed in the pigeon family) but before I got halfway through it was mostly about her family, their history, and what it was like growing up Jewish (but non-practicing) in a very religious neighborhood that frowned on any professed atheists (such as her father, the town physician). So, I liked the pigeon parts. How they raised their chicks, how the young ones learned to fly, the strain of the parents in feeding them, attacks by more aggressive pigeons that coveted their ledge, etc. The parts about cancer were less interesting, mostly because I was confused by her rambling musings and didn't always quite get the allusions and metaphors she made. The family history parts were even less interesting; ie I couldn't connect and it wasn't written well enough to make me live a foreign experience. So I ended up skimming through to read about the pigeons and more immediate childhood memories, and left the rest. Rather a disappointing read.
Rating: 2/5 ........ 288 pages, 1976