Carol Birch: Jamrach's Menagerie



Ent of the book even the portions that seemed a bit drawn out but that was intentional and part of the point Not suitable for vegetariansWell not for sueamish vegetariansActually no scrub that Not suitable for the sueamish full stopBut I really iked it so Not sueamish ovely word Andor there are compensations for the ickiness Yes Jaffy s voice is a steal Birch creates him and his world conjures them up out of nothing and there is no sense Jamrach s Menagerie is the most colorful grimy brutal salty coming of age story you are ikely to read It s the story of Jaffy Brown a nineteenth century boy who comes fully Baccarat : La lgende du cristal loaded with all that the best urchins have to offer abject poverty a single parentimitless optimism no education but natural smarts and a O Colégio de Todos os Segredos love of the sea Jaffy is part Pip part Popeye part Ishmael part Steve Irwin and thanks to Birch all freshness and charm He s our narrator in Jamrach s so it s good thing you want to spend time with him to root for him Jaffy sife pre Jamrach is all work and the cesspool atmosphere of London slums His one bright March Violets (Bernie Gunther, light is his Mother She seems barely older than Jaffy at the start of the novel and they are devoted to one another Jaffy enters Jamarach sife through the jaws a tiger One of my favorite moments in the book is when Birch describes this magnificent tiger through Jaffy s inexperienced eyes Jamrach is an agent of procurement for the wild and exotic that fill wealthyprivate Victorian zoos He is Jaffy s Magwich a mysterious benefactor who puts him on a path out of the slums Through the menagerie business Jaffy gets teamed up with another boy Tim who becomes his friend and rival and Dan Rymer the sailor and adventurer who becomes father and mentor to both boys on the voyage to catch a dragon that is the crux of the novelJaffy s hard knock Zoete tranen life thus far takes a turn for the worse after he goes to sea At this point the novel shifts gears aittle Jaffy s childhood as difficult as it was still had an innocence to it as he approaches adulthood on board the Lysander the tone of the book becomes harsher adult too The change is subtly done It goes from an almost Water Music lightheartedly dangerous Dickensian tale ofife on the streets populated with colorful characters to a Joseph Conrad nature verses man while man verses man tale Birch does a magnificent job bringing nineteenth century London and a globe crossing ocean voyage to Revived life The sights the smells the struggle to survive alleap off the page at you What could have been an endless dirge of sualor gin abuse and near death experiences instead become a brilliant tour of Student Research Projects in Calculus livesived by wit and sheer determination to ast just another day These places London slums the deck of the Lysander a deserted island these are not ocations that bring out the hopeful dreamer or the rags to riches tale Birch makes these stops the natural progression of Jaffy s Love for Imperfect Things life after his singular gooduck in finding himself in the tiger s mouthJamrach s Menagerie owes some of it s events to the real ife sinking of the whaling ship The Essex in 1820 which inspired Melville s Moby Dick and in exploits of Charles Jamrach Jamrach was a German born merchant who dealt in wild animals and whose escaped tiger in London carried off a small boy There are other plot elements in the story that I won t detail but will have a vaguely familiar ring to them This is not a criticism Birch s use of a true facts and a few known egends only enhances the feeling of historical accuracy in Jaffy s story She retells these moments within the Taking Instruction (Taboo, larger plot with a vivid immediacy that makes Jamarach s a page turner as well as a graduateevel course on how to write historical fiction This is one of those books where I really would Language and Linguistics like to know what the judges for the Man Booker Prize were thinking when they picked it over 100 other contenders to beonglisted for the prize for 2011 That s why I read it Parts of it have promise The story starts with this young boy Jaffy who ives at the very edge of the Thames river described uncomfortably well in a way only rivaled by Stephen King Good but not good It puts you there in a way you would never want to be Jaffy has a run in with a tiger and ends up working for Jamrach s Menagerie thus the title of the book To me these were the interesting bits unfortunately they only took the first uarter of the book or so Then the author sends Jaffy off on. Strike up a friendship Before he knows it Jaffy finds himself on board a ship bound for the South Sea.

This was a really interesting read It starts out almost ike a Dickens novel except colorful Young impoverished boy in Victorian London falls in with wild characters goes on adventures etc But it took a dreadfully dark turn that shocked the hell out of me and Love Is a Fairy Tale left me disturbed for days So be prepared for that this is much than the average coming of age adventure story In retrospect there were hints of a wild dark vein earlier in the story I just wasn t prepared for HOW dark the novel was going to go I think my favorite part of the novel was the rocky friendship between Jaffy and Tim simply because it seemed so honest and complicated and not idealized at all Tim is a great character an utterittle shit as a child but still charming somehow and complex and enigmatic as a young man He occasionally teases Jaffy but there are other times when he is achingly sweet Promise at Dawn like the scene in the ship where he holds Jaffy s hand after a bad dream and when he brings up the tiger story to give Jaffy the chance to earn the respect of others on the ship Jaffy s feelings for Tim are eually complicated he resents his teasing bitterly and is deeply jealous both of Tim s golden beauty and his close bond with his twin sister who Jaffy is inove with in a heady feverous very teenage way but he also seems very attached to and at times proud of Tim Wonderful historical fiction extremely vivid and interesting and filled with great characters but be prepared to follow them into some very dark places I was torn between two and three stars for this Perhaps it is ike 25 This book was a chore for me to read I felt disappointed and that it ought to have been so much better Maybe the problem was one of marketing it is called Jamrach s Menagerie and yet the vast bulk of it is about a voyage to find a presumably komodo dragonFor a book with such Dickensian ambition the characters were remarkably ifeless I felt that I should have identifi This book was shortlisted for Man Booker Prize this year 2011 It Bangkok Wakes to Rain lost to Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending I am still to read a Barnes but I am sure I willike his works since my brother The Right Sort of Man (Sparks Bainbridge Mystery like his Flaubert s Parrot However I wanted to have someighter reads every December so I picked up this book first I made the right decision this book is Darkmere light to read yet heavy in its artistryThink of Robert Louis Stevenson s sea adventure masterpiece Treasure Island because a big part of this book is about adolescent boys with grownup men sailing afloat the Atlantic Throw in some survival of the fittest and awakeningike Yann Martel s Life of Pi Then there s the uest of finding hunting and bringing home a Et si la maladie n'tait pas un hasard ? legend a mythical dragon Opps I have not read a novel about dragon yet How I wish I d read one so I can make this review convincing ha ha But anyway think of a uestike King Arthur s desire for the Holy Grail There I go I read something about that when I was a young boy I have now analogy Sir Galahad was to Jaffy Brown as King Arthur was to Jamrach But the big and very interesting element of this novel is its Dickensian flavor Jaffy Brown was at the start of the novel a young impoverished boy Den of Shadows (Gamblers Den loitering in the dirty streets of London during the Victorian period Birch s storytelling has that Dickensian touch of comedy innocence and a bit of realism amidst the grime and hopelessness I reallyiked that part when as a boy Jaffy thought that the stink in his surroundings because he was Scraps Of The Untainted Sky living near the market was how the world smelled He only realized this when his family transferred to another street I alsoiked how he fell in The Eric Carle Gift Set love with Ishbel I was almost tempted to say that I thought that the story would have been interesting if Birch gave her character a major part say Ishbel came with the two boys Jaffy and Tim aboard the creaky whaling ship Lysander However on the second thought I guess it would have been too predictable as there are already too many children s and YA books now with a youngady as the main protagonist Twilight has Bella The Hunger Games has Katniss Divergent has Trish The Mortal Instruments has Clarissa We need of those adventure books with young boys in it I say bring back the glory of Robert Louis Stevenson s with his Treasure Island and Kidnapped or Herman Melville with his Moby Dick and Billy Budd Let s have of Percy Jackson Todd Hewitt and Sam TempleSo this is really the reason why I cheer for this book. Jaffy Brown is running through the London backstreets when he comes face to face with an escaped circu.

A youngish adventure book with boys ruling over girls It is for children and young adults to enjoy and probably entice them to read where the author drew her inspiration from the classic works of Dickens Stevenson and Melville And who knows probably Birch was also inspired by her contemporaries Huguenot Prophecy and Clandestine Worship in the Eighteenth Century like Martell Rioldan Ness and GrantI am still to read a Barnes but I say that this book by Birch truly deserves to have been shortlisted in this year s Man Booker I received my copy from Bookhugger s Real Readers programme and the first thing to note is that the cover is absolutely stunning The second thing is that the opening paragraph is one of the most I found this book at theibrary sale shelves The cover attracted my attention first and after reading the first paragraph I was hooked I was born twice First in a wooden room that jutted out over the black water of the Thames and then again eight years Fashion Design Course later in the Highway when the tiger took me in his mouth and everything truly beganHow could I resist finding out what happened nextA word of advice though I did not read the blurb on the book jacket when I bought the book I did not read the GR blurb either which I have just discovered uotes the cover blurb exactly The trouble is that blurb is pretty much a condensed version of the book Because I dove in without knowing any of the details given in the blurb I was surprised when dramatic events happened and never knew until the very end how Jaffy s adventure would turn out This made the book dramatic I mean if you expect this that and the other to happen where is the thrill of reading something for the first time So don t read the blurbs just read the bookBut be prepared for some gruesome passages andots of detailed descriptions of throwing up It is in many ways a dark and disgusting tale The author recreates the Aeralis (The Frost Chronicles, living conditions of the Thames waterfront of the 1800 s in gory detail Before Jaffy meets his tiger he plays in a river that is practically all raw sewage and when he is hired at the Menagerie of the title heoves the animal stench of the place because even in its rankness it smells better than the river With this author s help it is not hard to imagine oneself Alternatives Chapter 2 (The Chronos Files; The Shattered Saga living back in the good old days And being thankful that ateast some things are better these daysI was captivated throughout much of the book and I must say the waterspout storm at sea passage was one of the most dramatic I have ever read But somehow during the Cincinnati and Other Plays long slog after the storm Iost focus and just wanted the excruciatingly detailed section that followed to be finished Perhaps I was too intensely there in the story and that is why I wanted out All I know is that I was relieved when the end came but was also disappointed in how it arrived Overall the book had its moments but I don t think I would read by this author The intensity the deep feeling the strong relationships the joys the horrors the experiences the adventures are all described so wonderfully by the author through the senses of Jaffy Brown in the first person that I shall not even attempt to tell you about them You need to read the book for yourself Short Speak Out! listed fo I picked this one to read because it was on theonglist for the Booker Prize I started it when I first took it home from the I Like You the Best library but I did not get into it then and thought I wouldn t read it But then I decided to try it again and when I got aittle further into it I had not read very much the first time I started to enjoy itJaffy is a young poor boy The collectors encyclopedia of antique marbles living in London in the 1850 s At age 9 when a tiger escapes its cage at aocal animal store he walks up to the cat and strokes it s nose He wondered what it felt The Philosophy of Giambattista Vico like He is promptly taken by the tiger in its mouth until the owner of the store Jamrach arrives and gets the tiger to drop him unharmed He sees a young girl that day slightly older than he is and he ends up working with her twin brother Tim at Jamrach s store his Menagerie mostly cleaning up after the many different kinds of animals When he turns 15 he and Tim go off to sea primarily to help Jamrach s supplier of animals to capture and return a fabled dragon that is believed to beiving on an island in the area of Indonesia The ship they travel on is a whaler and they also spend time hunting whales This turns into uite an adventure that is so well told and written that I was riveted and greatly enjoyed every mom. S animal His ife is transformed by the encounter Plucked from the jaws of death by Mr Jamrach the two.

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Carol Birch is the author of eleven previous novels including Turn Again Home which was long listed for the Man Booker Prize and Jamrach’s Menagerie which was a Man Booker Prize finalist and long listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the London Book Award