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Jamrach's Menagerie (2011)

by Carol Birch

Other authors: Steve West (Narrator)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
9207716,957 (3.62)1 / 217
Following an incident with an escaped tiger, nineteenth-century London street urchin Jaffy Brown goes to work for Mr. Charles Jamrach, the famed importer of exotic animals, alongside Tim, a good but sometimes spitefully competitive boy. Mr. Jamrach recruits the two boys to capture a fabled dragon during the course of a three-year whaling expedition to the Dutch East Indies. They succeed in catching the reptilian beast, but when the ship's whaling venture falls short of expectations, the crew begins to regard the dragon--seething with feral power in its cage--as bad luck.… (more)
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» See also 217 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
Began well - 1850's London, Mr Jamrach and his menagerie of birds and animals for sale.
Degenerates into a very long tale of shipwrecked sailors dying after the ship sinks - after their expedition to collect a komodo dragon (lost overboard). ( )
  siri51 | Jul 21, 2020 |
2.5
Taking into account the subject matter, this was surprisingly lacklustre. I loved the beginning but it just turned into a very a dull adventure on the high seas. I don't even know how that is possible! ( )
  Layla.Natasha | Nov 10, 2019 |
This book had me captivated and appalled. I read late into the night and then couldn't sleep.
As an 8 year old, young Jaffy Brown is confronted by a tiger on the streets of London. He reaches out to pat him but ends up in the tiger's maw. He is rescued by Mr Jamrach the owner of the tiger. Jamrach is in the business of importing exotic animals for sale to collectors or zoos. He sees in Jaffy a natural affinity for animals and in recompense for his experience offers him work in his yards. There Jaffy makes friends with Tim Linver and his twin sister Ishbel.
Seven years later, one of Jamrach's customers is prepared to pay for the capture of a dragon for his collection. Jamrach's friend Dan Rymer is the man for the job, an experienced sailor and whaler. He asks the boys to accompany him to help capture and care for the animal on the long voyage. The boys are excited and see it as an opportunity to see the world and have an adventure. What ensues is nothing any of them could have imagined.
The characters in this book are wonderfully drawn, the settings vivid and depictions at times confronting. Although fiction, parts of the story are based on fact. For me it was reminiscent of The North Water. ( )
  HelenBaker | May 11, 2019 |
A rollicking tale of a young, born into less-than-ideal circumstances boy that turns into an utterly heartbreaking yarn and a beautiful portrait of human beings. Prepare to be gently, thoroughly traumatised but oh, it is so worth it. ( )
  CaptainBookamir | Mar 11, 2019 |
A really great story. The setup sounds like The Life of Pi; but the book itself is more reminiscent of English Passengers. I really loved this book. ( )
  GaylaBassham | May 27, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 79 (next | show all)
In Jaffy, Birch has captured a boyish wonder at nature, a fascination with animals that any kid who’s ever caught a snake in the woods will be familiar with. As phantasmagoric as the mood of this novel gets, there is nothing in it that steps outside the bounds of reality, for it knows the real world is fantastic enough.
added by geocroc | editNew York Times, Benjamin Hale (Jul 29, 2011)
 
One of the magical qualities of Birch’s story is that it gives that sense of Dickensian sprawl and scope even though it’s spun in fewer than 300 pages.We smell “the gorgeous stench” of England’s burgeoning capital in the mid-19th century and see its noisy alleys stretching out in every direction.
added by geocroc | editWashington Post, Ron Charles (Jun 22, 2011)
 
Seen in the round, Jamrach's Menagerie is a terrific example of the virtues of finding a style and sticking to it: as good as anything Peter Carey has done in this line and, in certain exalted moments, even better.
added by geocroc | editThe Independent, D.J. Taylor (Feb 18, 2011)
 
When we are eventually returned to Wapping, minus a few fellow-travellers, Birch has spun us a captivating yarn of high seas and even higher drama. But she has also managed to leave us understanding why some of the sailors who did make it back to the comparative safety of land are, despite their ordeals, so quick to set sail again.
added by geocroc | editThe Guardian, Alex Clark (Feb 5, 2011)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Birch, Carolprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
West, SteveNarratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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I was born twice. First in a wood room that jutted out over the black water of the Thames, and then again eight years later in the Highway, when the tiger took me in his mouth and everything truly began.
Quotations
“Thirst and hunger came on sharp,” Jaffy observes. “The world can divide, can double like vision. So could I. I was here, wide-eyed, mad-silenced, staring at the sky and the dim, gray sea, the bruised and laden smudges of cloud, the waves. The rest of my life was a dream.”
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Following an incident with an escaped tiger, nineteenth-century London street urchin Jaffy Brown goes to work for Mr. Charles Jamrach, the famed importer of exotic animals, alongside Tim, a good but sometimes spitefully competitive boy. Mr. Jamrach recruits the two boys to capture a fabled dragon during the course of a three-year whaling expedition to the Dutch East Indies. They succeed in catching the reptilian beast, but when the ship's whaling venture falls short of expectations, the crew begins to regard the dragon--seething with feral power in its cage--as bad luck.

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Book description
A thrilling and powerful novel about a young boy lured to sea by the promise of adventure and reward, with echoes of Great Expectations, Moby-Dick, and The Voyage of the Narwhal.

Jamrach’s Menagerie tells the story of a nineteenth-century street urchin named Jaffy Brown. Following an incident with an escaped tiger, Jaffy goes to work for Mr. Charles Jamrach, the famed importer of exotic animals, alongside Tim, a good but sometimes spitefully competitive boy. Thus begins a long, close friendship fraught with ambiguity and rivalry.

Mr. Jamrach recruits the two boys to capture a fabled dragon during the course of a three-year whaling expedi­tion. Onboard, Jaffy and Tim enjoy the rough brotherhood of sailors and the brutal art of whale hunting. They even succeed in catching the reptilian beast.

But when the ship’s whaling venture falls short of expecta­tions, the crew begins to regard the dragon—seething with feral power in its cage—as bad luck, a feeling that is cruelly reinforced when a violent storm sinks the ship.

Drifting across an increasingly hallucinatory ocean, the sur­vivors, including Jaffy and Tim, are forced to confront their own place in the animal kingdom. Masterfully told, wildly atmospheric, and thundering with tension, Jamrach’s Mena­gerie is a truly haunting novel about friendship, sacrifice, and survival.
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Canongate Books

An edition of this book was published by Canongate Books.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 1921758457, 1921758953

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