Like the bird of the title, the main character is a distinct physical oddity if not quite a freak. He was born in the 1890's in Portugal the night his housemaid mother died in the room next to an elderly English boarder. John Antigua was born with teeth, hair, a pendulous nose, a singularly shapeless, thick torso and two strips of scaly flesh along his shoulderblades. Rather than abandon the baby to the near-certainty of death in a Portuguese orphanage, the Englishman took him home to his elderly spinster sister who wasted no time in turning the boy out when her brother died fifteen years later. From day school student of promise to scullery boy in the kitchen of a wealthy London household which would have unsettled the wits of any other boy, Antigua from babyhood on still displayed a supra-human sweetness of temper and at this point began drawing on a strange inner resource--a pre-sleep dream that persisted until his death in an air raid during World War II. The dream involved a medieval monastery setting complete in every detail and from these dreams, Antigua would emerge fully rested after very few hours of sleep. Tremendous energy and real ability moved him from scullery boy to assistant chef, from there to master chef in his own gourmet restaurant where he began, as early as World War I, to begin recognizing the people of his dreams among his clientele and acquaintances. Despite a marriage of convenience, the lonely baby who had evolved by himself into a thoroughly self-contained man, Antigua never had a human contact as real as his conversations at midnight with God and a Viennese Jew who had been murdered by the Nazis. . . . The fantasy element is all the stronger here for its placement in a sturdy rags-to-riches formulation--a deftly different story from an audience-tested author.