Jamrach’s Menagerie was an amusing adventure story about two boys who set sail on a whaling ship with their primary goal to capture a komodo dragon-liJamrach’s Menagerie was an amusing adventure story about two boys who set sail on a whaling ship with their primary goal to capture a komodo dragon-like lizard on a remote island in the Pacific, so they can sell it to a wealthy patron back in London. And as happens in this sort of novel, everything goes wrong. The story strongly appealed to me, but I felt that the characters, with the exception of the narrator, were not fully fleshed out. Some are of different nationalities, some play musical instruments, but most behave in uniform. Additionally, Birch spends excessive pages wrapping up the conclusion; I don’t think she could find an obvious moment to end such an exciting plot, so she keeps drawing it out to the point where I kind of stopped caring. Sometimes, it’s favorable to end the book with a bit of ambivalence; I don’t need to know what the protagonist thinks about the events 30 years later.
On a positive note, Jamrach’s Menagerie gets points for its fascinating, and surprisingly graceful description of the butchering of a whale onboard the whaling ship. Completely gruesome yet captivating. ...more
Update 12/22/11: One year later, I can't stop thinking about this book. Bumping it up to 5 stars as it clearly left a lasting impression on me.
Ugh! ThUpdate 12/22/11: One year later, I can't stop thinking about this book. Bumping it up to 5 stars as it clearly left a lasting impression on me.
Ugh! This book was so close to being great. It could have attained that fifth star! Unfortunately, I completely lost interest in the last 60 pages and had to force myself to choke down an ending that I knew would be unsatisfying. Oh well. It was still a very worthy read and was engrossing and convincing enough to make a winter trip to NW Minnesota feel sweltering....more
I’ll be brief since this book wasn’t. It was very enjoyable and maybe the only book of its length that I haven’t had serious reader-fatigue/impatienceI’ll be brief since this book wasn’t. It was very enjoyable and maybe the only book of its length that I haven’t had serious reader-fatigue/impatience throughout the last several hundred pages. This is certainly one of the best books I have read this year. That said, I have one complaint, and it may be more of a critique of many male writers in general: Follett manages to push scenes describing the horror of rape to just beyond that tipping point where it becomes a little sadistic as he seems to be saying to the reader “oh, this is awful…right? [wink, wink]”. Perhaps that was part of the author’s intent, and, when you have alternating sections of the book told not from different characters’ POVs but definitely from a narrator that shifts his sympathies depending on each section’s focus, it may have been disingenuous to avoid the issue....more