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Parrot And Olivier In America

3.41  ·  Rating details ·  6,454 Ratings  ·  958 Reviews
Olivier is a French aristocrat. the traumatized child of survivors of the Revolution. Parrot the son of an itinerant printer who always wanted to be an artist but has ended up a servant. Born on different sides of history. their lives will be brought together by their travels in America. When Olivier sets sail for the New World. ostensibly to study its prisons but in reali ...more
Paperback, 578 pages
Published August 5th 2010 by Faber and Faber (first published October 26th 2009)
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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
May 21, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Whimsical & epic, occurring in a place so magical but which really truly existed. There are forgeries & revolutions, dynamics of brotherhood which bring to mind Chabon's "Kavalier and Clay", and a style and tone which reminds me, at its zenith, of Ackroyd's "Hawksmoor."

But it truly is demanding upon the reader-- THIS IS NO SUMMER BOOK-- like an even more labyrinthine work by Saramago. The title is misleading (a crime for which an artist, I truly believe, should suffer dearly) for "Americ
Jul 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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

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
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
Vit Babenco
Sep 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Usually I connect with a book easily, even with the complex one, but somehow I couldn’t connect with Parrot and Olivier in America almost till the end so it was going rather slowly for me.
There are two main characters – two absolute opposites – a French idealistic aristocrat and an English declassed pessimist playing a role of the nobleman’s servant. And they find themselves in exile in New York:
“On board the ship there had been much talk about the healthy breezes on Manhattan. They must have me
Narrated by Humphrey Bower

Alexis de Tocqueville

I fell in love with this in a Mason & Dixon way and waited for it to transform into masterpiece, yet ultimately it never got to fly. Still enjoyed it to a high 3*, however I still feel Carey missed an oppurtunity to enthrall.
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
Aug 28, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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 NOT despair if yo
Sep 04, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Vera Alder
May 04, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A romp through 1830’s America in the company of two Europeans who serve as alternate narrators. Parrot, the elder, is the son of an English printer of great skill and dubious connections. His younger companion is Olivier, a French aristocrat whose character and background are based on Alexis de Toqueville, author of Democracy in America. The alleged purpose of their visit to America is Olivier’s “plan” to write a book about American prisons, much as Toqueville and his traveling companion planned ...more
Mar 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 31, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jan 22, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Ugh! Finally finished! I don't understand why this book was on the best sellers list. The writing was awful, to start. So many times I thought Character A was in place X only to read on and find out he was in actually place Y. I would re-read the section and sometimes it was because I misunderstood the author and sometimes it was because the writing was confusing. It was difficult to discern when characters were angry and when they were not. Their inner monolog was not but when they spoke to som ...more
Jul 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
When Peter Carey sets a novel in a historical period(as in Jack Maggs, for example) he immerses himself in a scholarship to match his literary brilliance. The result is a transportation in time where language, detail, undercurrents, landscape and nuance all ring perfectly true. In Parrot and Olivier in America we are in the early 19th century. Carey, one of the greatest living writers, captures it perfectly.

This book is more than that. The two eponymous characters are really wonderfully drawn an
I was delighted to experience this novel in audiobook form, which made the diction and language of the two main characters come alive, one a French artistocrat, Olivier, and another his English secretary, Larrit from the working class (called �Parrot� because of his red hair). This old fashioned novel that brings together these two very different Europeans for a sojourn in America in the 1830�s, ostensibly for Olivier to report on the U.S. penal system, but really as a means for his parents to k ...more
Claire H
Jan 14, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Is there a shelf for "tried to read"? I'm not a huge Peter Carey fan, but I did read and enjoy Oscar and Lucinda, and the premise of this sounded intriguing. I got exactly 5 pages in before feeling an almost irresistible urge to hurl this book across the room. Now, it may very well be that Carey, in presenting us with Olivier as narrator, surely one of the most pretentious, self-obsessed, pseudo-literary characters to ever appear within the pages of a novel, was trying to poke fun at said charac ...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
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011, aere-perennius
Wow! Carey is a master stylist; a sneaky ambassador of comic prose. Carefully examine this novel: each sentence, every paragraph and chapter after chapter is etched with his amazing craftsmanship. P&O in America is a fantastic portrait of America, European aristocracy, art, and commerce during the Jacksonian Era. It is a novel that captures the energy and emotion exposed during the transformation of Western civilization (France, England, America) as the old aristocracy was replaced in Europe ...more
Feb 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Lars Guthrie
Aug 01, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 Furman
Aug 16, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, novel
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
Jun 25, 2010 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
from NPR:

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
May 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 16, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: july-aug-2010
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
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
Mary Ellen
Jul 31, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  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
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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 about Peter Carey...
“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.” 8 likes
“I had known loneliness before, and emptiness upon the moor, but I had never been a NOTHING, a nothing floating on a nothing, known by nothing, lonelier and colder than the space between the stars. It was more frightening than being dead.” 7 likes
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