Jason's Reviews > Jamrach's Menagerie

Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch
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's review
Dec 17, 12

bookshelves: read-2012
Read in January, 2012

Carol Birch is a delightful writer, weaving this tale with a fine eye towards beautiful sentences. The story is a pretty typical adventure tale of a young boy who grows up to become a sailor and head off on a journey, blah blah blah. The journey itself is thrilling, but this is where the novel falls a little short. While it works in that bildungsroman sense, the character of Jaffy doesn't really learn all of that much. Some people are not what you expect, life is hard, yadayada. This isn't to say that this discovery isn't meaningful for the character, because it is, but rather that this book is very much treading the same ground as others. Where it keeps saving itself is how it skillfully navigates the line of metaphor and reality. The dragon is a metaphor, the storm is a metaphor and both give the story added weight, but they are also just things and when we impart on them too much meaning, that meaning is false and imposed, obscuring the truth.

If the novel had left off with that, I would have been happy. Okay, the characters aren't particularly the most well-rounded, but they are interesting and written about beautifully. Unfortunately, it lingers, it reflects, and its reflection isn't particularly insightful either. It ends up being too many pages, too much of a resolution so that the wildness that had roamed the story like a tiger is neatly caged and wrapped in a bow. Oh well. I enjoyed the novel for its strengths, the weaknesses being there and noticeable, but hardly worth letting it ruin my appreciation of the thing as a whole.
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