Ann D.'s Reviews > Parrot and Olivier in America

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey
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's review
Oct 21, 2010

really liked it
Read in October, 2010

I love Peter Carey’s novel Theft and am interested in American history, so I’ve been anxious to read this novel, and I read it quite quickly. My slight disappointment probably has more to do with my high expectations than any failure on the part of the book, and ultimately I recommend it, even highly. The writing is stylish and witty, and Carey (here as always) is skilled at bringing characters to life through their voices. The book’s ideas are worthy, too, particularly about the relationship between class and democracy. In many ways, democracy was the intellectual product of aristocrats (often slave owning or at least servant dependent), and so sometimes preferable in theory more than messy practice. The way that this book plays with history (references to the real Tocqueville and so on) is entertaining, and the style is Carey amplified (a verbose sort of smart and funny) and so clever and a lot of fun. Where the book fell a little short for me was in the relationship between the two central characters. The “buddy movie” plot undermines the development of John Larrit (Parrot). I also felt that the book promised more than it delivered in terms of its ideas about art and imitation, which were part of what made Theft so intriguing. Still, it’s hard to fault a book that covers so much ground for skipping across some of it, and one was definitely worth the time it took me to read it.

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