Man Booker Longlist Part Two: Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

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This is the second installment of the  Man Booker longlist book selections.

The first was Room by Emma Donoghue.

Today's selection

Parrot and Olivier In America by Peter Carey

First lines

I had no doubt that something cruel and catastrophic had happened before I was 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 Chateau de Barfleur.

Publisher Summary Olivier—an improvisation on the life of Alexis de Tocqueville—is the traumatized child of aristocratic survivors of the French Revolution. Parrot is the motherless son of an itinerant English printer. They are born on different sides of history, but their lives will be connected by an enigmatic one-armed marquis.

When Olivier sets sail for the nascent United States—ostensibly to make a study of the penal system, but more precisely to save his neck from one more revolution—Parrot will be there, too: as spy for the marquis, and as protector, foe, and foil for Olivier.

Parrot and OlivierAs the narrative shifts between the perspectives of Parrot and Olivier, between their picaresque adventures apart and together—in love and politics, prisons and finance, homelands and brave new lands—a most unlikely friendship begins to take hold.

And with their story, Peter Carey explores the experiment of American democracy with dazzling inventiveness and with all the richness and surprise of characterization, imagery, and language that we have come to expect from this superlative writer.

Written with Carey’s unmistakable narrative brilliance, Parrot and Olivier is a historical novel in the best sense of the term, in that it inhabits a historical era with utter accuracy and authenticity but in doing so holds a mirror up to our time as well.

Praise

Another feat of acrobatic ventriloquism, joining Carey’s masterpieces, Jack Maggs and True History of the Kelly Gang . . . Carey’s most marvelous invention is Tocqueville’s traveling companion, Parrot . . . It’s a brilliant alteration of history and a source of rich comedy . . . Outrageous and witty.”
 —Ron Charles, Washington Post

“Carey braids his story carefully, lovingly. It has all his telltale favorite elements—lawlessness, revolution, hope for the future, men driven by passion. At its heart, Parrot and Olivier is a western; the simplest story in history, sculpted down to a twinkle in a philosopher's eye: Man’s search for freedom.”—Los Angeles Times

Reading group alert -- history, humor, great characters, friendship, romance, adventure, intrigue. This book has it all for discussible conversation.

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