Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

Aug 27, 2010


I was so happy to finally receive this book , after all the hype about this new effort from Carey, a two-time Booker prize winner.  His use of language and sentence structure make demands of a reader that sometimes cannot be met, and my steady diet of mysteries has softened the brain to some extent, making the reading seem more like a chore.  But like most things, once you get used to the rhythm and meanings  behind the words, the story is a fascinating discourse on Jacksonian America, and revolutionary France, where Olivier de Garmont is spirited away from, lest he lose his head.  His mission in the United States is to ostensibly study the prison system, with an eye to reporting on its virtues and problems to the new government in Paris. In this effort he is aided by a sort of personal assistant/bodyguard/footman and also spy (for Olivier's maman), John Larrit, nicknamed Parrot, who is more foe at first than friend, referring to his charge as Lord Migraine. 

I found that as the scene moved from the Old World to the New, the language clarified and became more straight-forward, the action became less murky and more purpose-driven, and the humor more physical and less cerebral--mirroring the affect the new democracy had on its citizens. 

This is a fascinating book, fictionalizing de Tocqueville's Democracy in America to some extent, but adding layers of  persecution, politics, relationships, love affairs, and above all friendships.  I must read this again.

Reviewed by Library Staff