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Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch
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Jamrach's Menagerie (2011)

by Carol Birch

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6916913,777 (3.65)1 / 186
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Disappointing given the reviews and the Booker shortlisting. A well-executed but conventional nautical tale that, per the book description, combined Dickens and Melville. A London-born street urchin runs into a tiger on a street, gets connected with the owner of an exotic menagerie business, and then sets off on a sea voyage to track down what appears to be a komodo dragon. The bulk of the book is occupied by the sea voyage with all of the conventional renditions of a young, inexperienced an at sea, whale hunting, stopping at islands, and ultimately a shipwreck. Some of the scenes are unusually powerful (one in particular that I don't want to spoil) but none of them are particularly unique. And the characters are not especially interesting either, except maybe the few main characters. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
An enjoyable read, a bit similar to Life of Pi
  PaulaCheg | Jan 25, 2014 |
Not at all what I expected from the blurbs, and deeply scarring. Don't make my mistake - reading it back to back with Life of Pi (hey, two books about boys and shipwrecks; oh, and the other thing) will not leave you in a happy place. ( )
  imyril | Dec 8, 2013 |
I can sum this book up simply. It all goes downhill once you start eating humans after being lost at sea. ( )
  sarahzilkastarke | Nov 20, 2013 |
Jamrach's Menagerie is a richly told story, bringing adventure and fantasy together on the high seas. ( )
  Maryka | Oct 21, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 70 (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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For Budgie
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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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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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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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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 1921758457, 1921758953

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