Parrot and Olivier in America
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Parrot and Olivier in America

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  4,535 ratings  ·  835 reviews
Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2010:

When my countrymen imagined America, they thought of savages and bears and presidents who would not wear wigs. Who among them could have conjured Miss Godefroy in all her beauty of form and elegance of mind, her wit, her delicacy, her slender ankles amid those mad red leaves?

An exploration of the great adventure of American democr...more
Kindle Edition, 400 pages
Published (first published 2009)
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Whitaker
Chairman: This meeting is now called to order. We are here to vote on the resolution: That Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey be given 5 stars. Will the representative who proposed the motion please explain why.

Tocqueville: Well, it is because this book is actually about me, and my travels in America. Peter, my good friend, thought it would be a good idea to write a fictional account of how I came to write Democracy in America. The aristocrat in the book, Olivier, is based on me. Parr...more
·Karen·
It's hard to imagine that you could have more fun with a novel than with this one. Exhilarating, astonishing, informative, imaginative, intriguing and funny, what else could you ask for? Over at Mr. Carey's website

http://petercareybooks.com/

there is a comment from a critic at the Guardian: "Too emotionally dangerous to be fully embraced by doe-eyed lovers of The Time Traveler's Wife, too much fun to be taken entirely seriously by the dour acolytes of JM Coetzee (the contemporary whose career h...more
Bonnie
Great idea, poorly executed.

This is a fictionalized version of Alexis de Tocqueville's journey to America. Alexis is now "Olivier." His (not really) loyal manservant is Parrot. These two very different Old Worlders (Olivier a rich French aristocrat, Parrot a poor but scrappy Brit) encounter the New World and see how very different life is across the pond.

My big problems with this book were: (1) it was very longwinded and (2) I hated everyone. These are big problems.

Was Alexis de Tocqueville real...more
Marialyce
There were times that I absolutely loved this book and there were times when I wondered why I was reading it. The book was sort of a see saw for me as it follows the travels and lives of the two characters, M Parroquet (a jack of all trades) and Olivier de Garmont ( a royal) as they befriend one another and learn what it is that makes American democracy a force to be reckoned with. Since Olivier's grandparents have lost their heads to the guillotine, and although his parents have been spared, Ol...more
Sue
Jul 20, 2011 Sue rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: readers of historical fiction
This was an enjoyable read from a perspective I've never encountered before. Modeled, apparently, on Alexis de Toqueville's writings of his travels in the young nation of the United States, Carey's novel also follows the journey of a young French nobleman who is "banished" abroad for his own well=being during the unrest in France. He is Olivier. Parrot is his sometime servant othertime scribe, traveling companion, fool, etc.

I heartily recommend this novel with one caution....do NOT despair if yo...more
Bennet
There is not a page from which I could not provide a delightful turn of phrase or description or conversation or all three. Every page was a delight to read, so much so that this is going on my brilliant-voices-and-language shelf.

It is my idea of ideal historical fiction: an imaginative and digressive exploration of the humanity behind the events, by way of metaphor, paradox, farce, foibles, and much empathy. And as such it ranks right up there with other "brilliants" like "Measuring the World,...more
Trish
Oh, Peter Carey is a hooligan, a rough lad, a clever boy. He takes the opportunity this novel provides to lampoon the national character of France and America, though he went rather easier on the British and Australians. But what a send-up it is! Glorious with imagined scenes of snobbery and pomp in royalist France, and rife with grim scenes of those money-making (literally: counterfeiting) British printers, he moves a youngish Olivier, French aristocrat and lawyer, and his secrétaire, the forme...more
Lori (Hellian)
I really dragged my feet about reading this. I needed a really good book after my 2 previous disappointments, and I also just purchased a used copy of Wild Sheep Chase. A Murakami I've been wanting to read! However I felt I owed it to Carey to at least try this, since it's a library book and I was on hold for quite awhile. So I'm especially pleased to find this is delightful so far!

Finished! The writing is exquisite, the story delightful. I wanted to wring Olivier's neck the first half, he's suc...more
Vera Alder
A good book needs to be more than a good story. It needs to have language that entices. Add a dash of history and I'm hooked. Parrot & Olivier in America gave me everything I love in a book, but that's becoming increasingly hard to find. Action, adventure, conflict, elegant prose (but not so much as to be distracting). It's a story of two men from vastly different backgrounds, one a noble of France, the other a printing engraver/almost artist. They tell the same story in their own words. We...more
Sue
Peter Carey’s dazzling book is a reimagining of Alexis de Tocqueville if he had traveled with an English servant to the new world. Hence one character is often true to his model, and the other is crafted from whole cloth. The unlikely pair provide a contrast that would not have been possible had Carey chosen only to explore the historical character.

An exploration of the wild and tumbling place that was America in the early 19th century, the book alternates between the lives and adventures of Oli...more
Regina
Feb 19, 2011 Regina rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: Fans of Historical Fiction, Literary fiction, and discussions on politics and democracy
4.25 stars. Parrot and Olivier was a nominee for the Man Booker 2010 award. This was the reason I picked it up. The book begins in the late 1700s both simultaneously in both England and then years later during the French Revolution in France. In England we are first introduced to “Parrot”, he is a young boy, who wonders with his father and together they look for work. In France, we meet the son of nobles (“Oliver) who both fear the revolution and embrace the ideals that spur it. The stories of...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This book was laborious, but I enjoyed the last third of it much more than the beginning so that is freshest in my mind. The characters are pretty unlikable, particularly Olivier, but the whole point seems to be the contrast between the fading French aristocracy and the juvenile democratic nation of America, right on the brink of its own civil war. Carey seems to have a lot to say toward the end about the failings of democracy, and it almost feels like he wrote the book around that concept. But...more
Steve
If you’ve heard anything at all about this book, you know that it’s inspired by Alexis de Tocqueville, the French aristocrat who in the early 1800’s wrote what was considered an influential and insightful portrait of young America. Olivier was Alexis in roughly the same way that Cate Blanchett was Bob Dylan. Historical fiction that’s inspired by real people, and that doesn’t even use real names, is free to make up relationships, back stories, dialogue, and events to make the narrative more inter...more
Rob
Along with Ian McEwan, J. M. Coetzee, A. S. Byatt and a few others, it often seems that Peter Carey has a Booker Prize life peerage. It’s unusual to see him fail to make the long list at least and he’s scooped top honours twice with “Oscar and Lucinda” and “The True History of the Kelly Gang”. Unlike Salman Rushdie and Martin Amis, the Australian’s public persona has done nothing to gather him enemies and it seems assured that he will be looked upon with favour for some time by the likes of Mich...more
Jason
Peter Carey's writing in this book is brilliant, especially his alternating pair of highly unreliable narrators. Much of the story is fascinating and the observations thought provoking. But in the end the fact that I didn't find myself really caring about any of the characters was a real minus.

The book tells a highly fictionalized account of Tocqueville's travels to America, with an even more fictionalized English servant who accompanies him to spy on him but then takes more to the American styl...more
Felice
Feb 21, 2010 Felice rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: readers of Ian McEwan, Pynchon, George MacDonald Fraser
Recommended to Felice by: a friend


Carey has twice won the award that most often co-insides with my own perfect taste, the Man Booker. I'm sure we both remember my rants on that prize so I won't go there again. Anyway, Carey has won the Booker for Oscar and Lucinda (1988) and The True History of the Kelly Gang (2001) and he was on the short list for Illywhacker (1984). Impressive. There have been many other awards and nominations along the way for Carey but for now I'm going to ignore those. Just know they are numerous.

So? Parrot...more
Lars Guthrie
Peter Carey's Olivier-Jean-Baptiste de Clarel de Barfleur de Garmont is born to a noble Norman family in the troubled times following the French Revolution. He's home-schooled by 'Bebe,' a beloved old priest, the abbe de la Londe. As a young man, he sneaks off to America, ostensibly to write a report on prisons, but just as importantly to escape France's unsettled political atmosphere.

Comte Alexis-Charles-Henri-Maurice Clérel de Tocqueville was born to a noble Norman family in the troubled time...more
Ehrrin
Jun 25, 2010 Ehrrin marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
from NPR: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/st...

Recommended By John Freeman
Parrot and Olivier

Parrot And Olivier In America
By Peter Carey, hardcover, 400 pages, Knopf, list price: $26.95

This historical novel is based on the life of Alexis de Tocqueville, famous for his 19th century study of American society, "Democracy in America." In Carey's fictional account, Olivier, the character based on de Tocqueville, comes to America with his companion, Parrot, a young English printer who has been in an...more
Kyra
While the reader must eitehr enjoy or at least exercise patience with the language recreated here, and an acquaintance with the work of De Tocqueville, whose work is being "reimagined", would certainly help, this is a wonderful read. It's akin to a Stoppard spin on Shakespeare. What Stoppard did with the off-page lives of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, for example, Carey does for these two characters, taking their lives beyond DeToqueville's recounting. Gradually learning the extraordinary journe...more
Bookmarks Magazine
By most accounts, Parrot and Olivier in America is trademark Carey--adventurous, chaotic, and wonderfully original--and another possible, and certainly worthy, candidate for a Booker, noted the Miami Herald. It is also hilarious: most critics cited the interaction between the two narrators as a favorite, even though the presentation of their very different perspectives (Carey tells their stories in alternating voices) irritated two of them. And although more than one reviewer commented on the bo...more
T.D. Whittle
I moved to Australia several years ago and, at the time, the only Australian writer whose work I knew and had read widely was Patrick White. I am having such a good time discovering the treasures and pleasures of Aussie literary talents. This was my introduction to Peter Carey and now I can't stop reading him. All I can say that others have not already mentioned is that, personally, I adore this book. It is clever, and funny, and a great romp. I wish I could sit down to dinner with Carey and dis...more
Mary Ellen
Aug 09, 2011 Mary Ellen rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: de Toqueville fans with a quirky sense of humor
This is a very eccentric book! Carey can write gorgeous description, and the two protagonists are memorable (if unappealing). I'm not a big fan of the picaresque, so my patience began to wear thin mid-book. But by the end, I had developed a grudging fondness for the two principal characters, just as they did for each other. Some of the significant minor characters were a bit out-of-focus for me (chiefly Parrot's beloved Mathilde and the shady down-on-his-luck aristo, Tibot). I'd give the beginni...more
Ms. Jessie
I went to the New York Public Library last night to see Peter Carey discuss his new book with Claire Messud and Edmund White. Talent and literary merit aside, I was surprised by the elitist, even fusty tone of the conversation. Carey expressed dire concern for the future of humankind, repeatedly stating that while it was once collectively imagined with Jetson-style shine, it is now apocalyptically rusty, a result of declining high culture, ozone depletion, and children's waning interest in "grea...more
Cassandra Silva
I listened to this on audio and was very pleased with the voice work. The novel is beautifully written and it really comes across well on audio. The characters escapades take many various avenues, sometimes very funny, and the history of their lovers is enjoyable and well flushed out. It was a great simple well delivered historical fiction based somewhat loosely on Alexis de Tocqueville's journey to America.
Laura Stone Johnson
“Parrot and Olivier in America,” double Booker Prize-winning author Peter Carey's eleventh book, is a rollicking, rambling, rakish look at unexpected friendship, art and burgeoning democracy.

Loosely based on Alexis de Tocqueville (but don't let that scare you away) Carey has created the character of Olivier de Garmont, a young, effete French noble still reeling from the slaughter of the revolution, and has paired him with Englishman, John Larrit (known at Parrot for his uncanny ability to mimic)...more
Udipi
Parrot and Olivier in America is a rich, eloquent and magniloquent tale of Olivier and Parrot’s journey to America; Olivier, a French aristocrat born in France after the French Revolution and Parrot, the son of an itinerant English printer who aspired to be an artist but ends up as a servant.

Inspired by Alexis de Tocqueville's famous journey to America, the novel captures Olivier and Parrot’s sojourn through the soils of France, England and Australia to America.
Two time Booker Prize winner auth...more
Kinga
Parrot and Olivier are a bit like The Prince and The Pauper: one born into crippling poverty and the other surrounded by more money than he can possibly imagine.

I did say " a bit", so the similarity between the two stories ends here.

The reader meets both when they are children, living very different lives. Parrot is English and Olivier de Garmont is French aristocracy (though deposed for the moment). The story then stops abruptly and we rejoin both when they are adults.

They are thrown together...more
Sophia
We could say that this is about Alexis de Tocqueville, the young French nobleman who wrote 'Democracy in America , but only if ‘about’ means 'more or less inspired by'. Olivier de Garmont’s personality and career only resemble Alexis de Tocqueville’s in some respects, but not at all in others.

Accordingly, Olivier is not a portrait, but at most a caricature, who isn't even interested in the America to which he is exiled until he falls in love with a fine, free-wheeling American girl. Parrot's rol...more
Fred Moramarco
Writers of historical fiction have things "both" ways: on the one hand they want to give us a convincing, realistic portrait of actual historical figures and a time and place in the past, and on the other they're not bound to the facts as historians are. They can let their imaginations roam freely among the nooks and crannies of what actually happened and give us a free-form, entertaining evocation of whatever it is they're writing about. History is to historical fiction as classical music is to...more
Mike Tarasovic
I liked this book a ton, and wish I could give it more than four stars without giving it five, which I'm reserving for books that just absolutely blow me away. Goodreads, can we get a 100-point scale going here?
Anyways, this novel is a fictionalization of Alexis de Toqueville's travels through the young United States en route to writing 'Democracy in America.' It alternates narration between Olivier de Garmont (the de Toqueville stand-in) and John 'Parrot' Larrit, his servant. Initially, both na...more
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the GoodReads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Peter Carey was born in Australia in 1943.

He was educated at the local state school until the age of eleven and then became a boarder at Geelong Grammar School. He was a student there between 1954 and 1960 — after Rupert Murdoch had graduated and before Prince Charles arriv...more
More about Peter Carey...
Oscar and Lucinda True History of the Kelly Gang Jack Maggs Theft: A Love Story My Life as a Fake

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“I have traveled widely. I have seen this country in its infancy. I tell you what it will become. The public squares will be occupied by an uneducated class who will not be able to quote a line of Shakespeare.” 3 likes
“Would you rather have the lords and nobles back? What is Democracy for? Not so we can rob each other. Or cheat.' I said cheat and felt the teeth in it, the cleat, the cut, the eat.” 2 likes
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