Stephen Durrant's Reviews > Jamrach's Menagerie

Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch
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's review
Oct 16, 2011

really liked it
Read in October, 2011

Another book short-listed for this year's Booker Prize. This is an adventure story--in some ways very much in the tradition of so many of those British sea adventures set in the 19th century. It does, however, have some interesting twists. A young man, the narrator, is taken aboard a ship that has as one of its missions to capture and bring back to England a Komodo dragon, rumors of which have been circulating among sailors who have spent time in the Indonesian archipelago. They succeed, at least initially, but there is something ominous about the dragon, and things quickly take a very bad turn. No more can be said without giving away the plot of this strongly plot-driven novel. Carol Birch does a masterly job of creating a narrator, well on in years, looking back on a traumatic experience in his distant past. This is an old formula, but she uses it particularly well and slides with admirable skill from the perspective of the boy caught in adventure and trauma, and that of the old man who is contemplating events that changed his life. Birch is a writer I had not read before. This initial exposure makes me want to look at some of her earlier work.

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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Susan (new) - added it

Susan Just finished the book. The novel does make it through many twists and turns. I liked it too.

Stephen Durrant Last year I made it through most of the Booker Prize nominees before the prize, but this year I haven't read any yet. I just downloaded Martel's "Bring up the Bodies" and Jeet Thayil's "Narcopolis" onto my kindle . . . supposedly these are the two favorites (along with Will Self).

message 3: by Susan (new) - added it

Susan I've read Bring up the Bodies. Bought Narcopolis but haven't read yet. I did read The Lighthouse and also the Pilgrimage of xxxx (forgetting the name right now). I really enjoy the Mantel series.

Books this year so far are third person. Are there secret rules?

Stephen Durrant I'll start "Bring up the Bodies." Since I'm trying to realize my freshman plan to be something of an amateur expert on the "Reformation" (before getting sidetracked by China), it's appropriate . . . and I loved the previous Mantel. And, yes, there are secret rules. Maybe it's an alternate year thing. Back to first person next year, so you can skip those :)

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