July 28, 2017

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter CareyOur first bookclub choice of 2012 – Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey, which was shortlisted for the 2010 Booker Prize.

The book is built on alternate chapters written from the view point of each character – we start with Olivier. I could have given up after the first chapter, Olivier is not an engaging character and fairly tedious. The second chapter (Parrot’s) had me gripped though – and these 2 different styles reflect the 2 characters perfectly.

We start off with both men’s start in the world – one (Olivier) a French noble, and Parrot a working class boy from Devon. As the whole story is set in the eigthteenth century there’s an awful lot going on – and at certain points I really wished I remembered more about the key points of the build up to the French Revolution.

The two are thrown together by events and travel to America for Olivier’s safety. There is much more to the book than simply two men getting to know and trust each other. There’s a huge amount here about how society changed during this time – how the class divisions began to be ripped apart, and we see that from many many different perspectives.

There’s also a lot about how a new society establishes itself as our characters travel around America.

Generally I enjoyed the book, I’m quite pleased to have read it – but I know I won’t be picking it up again. And the ending was a little flat.

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