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Parrot and Olivier in America (Vintage International)by Peter Carey
2010 Man Booker Prize Shortlist
Booker Prize-winning author Peter Carey plus real-life historical figures? Oh, I'm in — and you will be, too. This time, it's Democracy in America author Alexis de Tocqueville who gets Carey's funny and incredibly compelling fictionalized treatment. Carey at his best!
Synopses & Reviews
From the two-time Booker Prize-winning author comes an irrepressibly funny new novel set in early nineteenth-century America.
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.
As 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.
"The eminently talented Carey (Theft) has the gift of engaging ventriloquism, and having already channeled the voices of Dickens's Jack Maggs and the Australian folk hero/master thief Ned Kelly, he now inhabits Olivier-Jean-Baptist de Clarel de Barfleur, a fictionalized version of Alexis de Tocqueville, whose noble parents are aghast at his involvement in the events surrounding Napoleon's return and the reigns of Louis XVIII and Charles X. To remove him from danger, they send him to America, where priggish snob Olivier inspires Carey's humor during his self-centered adventures in New York, New England, and Philadelphia. Olivier can't shake his aristocratic disdain of raw-mannered, money-obsessed Americans — until he falls for a Connecticut beauty. More lovable is Parrot, aka John Larrit, who survives Australia's penal colony only to be pressed into traveling with Olivier as servant and secret spy for Olivier's mother. Though their relationship begins in mutual hatred, it evolves into affectionate comradeship as they experience the alien social and cultural milieus of the New World. Richly atmospheric, this wonderful novel is picaresque and Dickensian, with humor and insight injected into an accurately rendered period of French and American history." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Peter Carey's latest imaginative and commanding tale [is] a thrillingly fresh and incisive drama of extraordinary personalities set during a time of world-altering vision and action....His transfixing novels are at once sharply funny and profoundly resonant....Brilliant." Booklist (starred review)
"One of those comic masterpieces that seems effortless while making you realize that Carey writes some of the best sentences in English." New Yorker.com
"I have been reading with astonishment and envy Parrot and Olivier in America....Carey is a writer I prize not only for his remarkable Dickensian plots but also for the brilliance of his style....He is the most exuberant stylist at work in English today." Daily Telegraph
"Peter Carey is a wily seducer, a mental acrobat who can bound across continents and centuries and make us believe in whatever world he has discovered and imagined. Parrot and Olivier transports us to the rough-and-tumble America of 1830, and it's possibly the most charming and engaging novel this demon of a story-teller has yet written. His prose has never been more buoyant, more vigorous, more musical. Open this book and listen to Peter Carey sing." Paul Auster
Man Booker Prize Finalist
National Book Award Finalist
With this story of an unlikely friendship, Peter Carey explores the adventure of American democracy with the dazzling inventiveness and richness of characterization, story, and language that we have come to expect from this superlative writer.
Man Booker Prize Finalist
National Book Award Finalist
Two-time Booker Prize-winner Peter Carey’s latest feat of imagination is an irrepressible, audacious, and trenchantly funny novel set mostly in nineteenth-century America.
Olivier—an improvisation on the life of Alexis de Tocqueville—is an aristocrat born just after the French Revolution. Parrot is the motherless son of an itinerant English engraver. Their lives are joined when Olivier sets sail for the New World to save his neck from one more revolution and Parrot is sent with him as spy, protector, foe, and foil. With the story of their unlikely friendship, Peter Carey explores the adventure of American democracy with the dazzling inventiveness and richness of characterization, story, and language that we have come to expect from this superlative writer.
About the Author
Peter Carey is the author of ten previous novels and has twice received the Booker Prize. His other honors include the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Born in Australia, he has lived in New York City for twenty years.
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