Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Parrot and Olivier in America

Title: Parrot and Olivier in America

Author: Peter Carey

Number of pages: 464

Started: 29 September 2010

Finished: 6 October 2010

Opening words:

I had no doubt that something cruel and catastrophic had happened before I was even born, yet the comte and comtesse, my parents, would not tell me what it was. As a result my organ of curiosity was made irritable and I grew into the most restless and unhealthy creature imaginable — slight, pale, always climbing, prying into every drain and attic of the Château de Barfleur.

But consider this: Given the ferocity of my investigations, is it not half queer I did not come across my uncle's célérifère?

Read a longer extract here

Plot summary:

Olivier is a French aristocrat, the traumatised child of survivors of the Revolution; Parrot the son of an itinerant English printer who always wanted to be an artist but has ended up a servant. Born on different sides of history, their lives will be joined by their travels in America. When Olivier sets sail for the New World – ostensibly to study its prisons but in reality to save his neck from one more revolution – Parrot is sent with him, as spy, protector, foe and foil. As the narrative shifts between the perspectives of Parrot and Olivier, and their picaresque travels together and apart – in love and politics, prisons and the world of art – Peter Carey explores the adventure of American democracy, in theory and in practice, with dazzling wit and inventiveness.

What I thought:

Another of the Booker shortlist of which I was not a massive fan. It reminded me too much of having to read historical novels for school. Some of my fellow reading colleagues at work loved this book and thought it was very funny. Whilst it was more readable than the previous offering from the Booker list, it was not the book for me.

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