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Jamrach's Menagerie Paperback – February 1, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
The writing is simple but appropriate for the times and characters, a rare fusion of poetic writing and compelling narrative. I found many of the scenes emotionally powerful and the book reaches a satisfying yet complex conclusion. Late in the book the author does deal with an unsettling theme but I felt it was handled well, being neither prudish nor graphic, but advanced the story in a compelling fashion.
There are sailors that occasionally use the f-word which jarred me out of the historic reverie the author so skillfully wove. I suppose sailors really did talk like that but I prefer less reality since it is absent in the writing of the era. This is a minor complaint. Most won't be bothered by it. I suppose I lead a rather sheltered life but mention this for other readers such as myself.
From the title and some reviews which describe it as "rollicking" and a "romp," I expected a jolly story about a young man becoming involved with an exotic menagerie in Victorian London. It turned out to be very different - a complex, literary novel of the sea as our narrator sets off on a journey on one of the last of the whaling ships under sail to find and capture an exotic, possibly mythical, creature. I found it utterly enthralling, with much to say about the nature of friendship, of growing up, people's behaviour in desperate times, guilt and redemption and much more. It never preaches or philosophises, but presents us with a vivid picture of very real-seeming people, often in extremities of endurance and suffering, and asks us to consider them compassionately. There are incidents and characters here which will remain with me for a long time.
The book also captures wonderfully the atmosphere of Victorian London and of life on a sailing ship and whaler. Melville, Patrick O'Brian and others have set a phenomenally high standard for novels of the sea, whaling and the age of sail but I think Carol Birch, while wholly different from either, matches them for believability and her ability to transport the reader into her world. I thought that the description of the pursuit, killing and processing of a whale was simply brilliant, for example, even though it was familiar from other novels. There were several other passages which were just as good.
The prose was a real pleasure to read.Read more ›
A fellow with second sight warns Jaffy and the rest of the whaler's crew that they'll bring on bad luck if they capture the dragon and take it on board the ship. The crew should have listened. Time itself changes with the Ora on board; they enter "dragon time." Their thoughts become muddled; Jaffy says "It was like an earthquake in the landscape in my head, and I no longer knew what I could count on." In light of the warning, it's obvious that disaster will strike; it's just a question of when it will happen and how bad it will be. It's bad.
Carol Birch's vivid writing brings this thrilling story to life. Reading the novel was like watching a movie in high definition -- better than that, really, given the clarity that language provides. Birch's style alternates between graceful and gritty, as the scene demands. Part seafaring adventure, part survival story, part tale of the supernatural, with elements of a morality play and psychological study, Jamrach's Menagerie delivers an exhilarating plot and convincing characters.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A great and grand adventure that is written in an elegant, yet very readable style. You will never forget this story and the imagery presented within. It is that good.Published 2 months ago by Tim Dossey
Very well written, characters have a great deal of depth, everything you want in a good read.Published 2 months ago by Sandra Alexander
Very well written and an unusual plot. Excellent 'page-turner' of a read. Some gruesome scenes so it is not for the squeamish.Published 4 months ago by Jim Grier
Descriptive in a compelling, immersive way, I loved the first half. Second half can drag as it becomes more conceptual, but brought home well.Published 5 months ago by Stu
Jamrach’s Menagerie is set in 1830s London, by the dockyards, where sailors come and go. The narrator is Jaffy Brown, now in his fifties, reflecting on the voyage that made him a... Read morePublished 6 months ago by Martina A. Nicolls
It felt like a cross between Great Expectations and Moby Dick. And while the thought of that may strike fear and loathing into the heart of high score readers, it has much to... Read morePublished 10 months ago by James L. Webster
A tale of survival, superbly written, the struggle to live: to be born into a life that gives few choices; growing up in London's slums; to sea to escape, discovering that... Read morePublished 14 months ago by CTK
This novel has one of the best openings I've read: 'I was born twice. First in a wooden room that jutted out over the black water of the Thames, and then eight years later in the... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Alumine Andrew