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The Bestiary [Kindle Edition]

Nicholas Christopher
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $14.00
Kindle Price: $7.99
You Save: $6.01 (43%)
Sold by: Random House LLC


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Book Description

From “a writer of remarkable gifts,” “Borges with emotional weight, comes a tale that is at once a fantastical historical mystery, a haunting love story, and a glimpse into the uncanny—the quest for a long-lost book detailing the animals left off Noah’s Ark.

Xeno Atlas grows up in the Bronx, his Sicilian grandmother’s strange stories of animal spirits his only escape from the legacy of his mother’s early death and his stern father’s long absences as a common seaman. Shunted off to an isolated boarding school, with his father’s activities abroad and the source of his newfound wealth grown increasingly mysterious, Xeno turns his early fascination with animals into a personal obsession: his search for the Caravan Bestiary. This medieval text, lost for eight hundred years, supposedly details the animals not granted passage on the Ark—griffins, hippogriffs, manticores, and basilisks—the vanished remnants of a lost world sometimes glimpsed in the shadowy recesses of our own.

Xeno’s quest takes him from the tenements of New York to the jungles of Vietnam to the ancient libraries of Europe—but it is only by riddling out his own family secrets that he can hope to find what he is looking for. A story of panoramic scope and intellectual suspense, The Bestiary is ultimately a tale of heartbreak and redemption.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Christopher's magical fifth novel, a sympathetic history teacher takes an interest in quiet, studious Xeno Atlas, who has developed a burning interest in real and imaginary animals. I first heard of the Caravan Bestiary when I was fifteen years old, and it changed the course of my life, Xeno declares. The young man undertakes a quest to find the ancient manuscript, which describes animals left off Noah's Ark (including the Catoblepas, a white bird with divining powers) and was assumed lost many years ago. The search entails an around-the-world journey, wherein Xeno learns the answers to long-standing family mysteries, uncovers a wealth of lost knowledge and finds true love with his best friend's sister, the lovely Lena Moretti. Christopher (A Trip to the Stars) also saddles his protagonist with a dead mother; a mysterious, perpetually grieving, peripatetic father; a shape-shifting shamanistic grandmother; and a lonely, troubled childhood. His evocative prose yields a narrative loaded with fascinating arcana and intriguing characters. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

The Bestiary, Nicholas Christopher's fifth novel-after Franklin Flyer (2002) and A Trip to the Stars (2000)-has more than a little in common with Dan Brown's hugely popular The Da Vinci Code: the plots of both books are driven by a search for a lost object whose disappearance involves significant religious and historical intrigue. But The Bestiary is no mere Da Vinci knockoff. As the Washington Post opines, by blurring the edges of fantasy and reality, "Christopher is doing something strange here-and tantalizing." The novel's exploration of magical realism is what sets it apart, and its depiction of Xeno's enchanting, melancholy journey from Paris to Venice to Vietnam as he discovers beasts and himself is both riveting and heartwarming.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 395 KB
  • Print Length: 322 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385337361
  • Publisher: The Dial Press (June 26, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000SCHC92
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #700,537 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing July 7, 2007
Caveat: "A Trip to the Stars" was the first Nicholas Christopher book I read. I loved it. I've since read his other fiction works, and I've been disappointed by all in comparison. The Bestiary is no different.

The Bestiary gets off to a good start-- Xeno's empty and lonely childhood is haunting and the tension building in his relationships with those around him is palpable. I kept waiting for something to happen. Nothing did. By the middle of the book, I'd just about run out of steam. I stuck with it to find out what happened, and was unimpressed by the ending. This was a book I finished just to finish, not because I was compelled to find out what happened or even particularly cared.

I also felt occasionally as if there were a private joke I simply wasn't privy to. In an otherwise serious novel, a Maine private prep school teacher named Cletis? Christopher also seems to rely on numerous symbols to communicate or hint at some message. Unfortunately, they seem like sentences with only beginnings and no end: they seem to be meaningful, but what they mean is none too clear to me.

Over all, this book got off to a great start, but sputtered to a fairly anemic end.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Animal atlas June 15, 2008
Xeno Atlas has grown up missing both his mother (dead) and his father (physically and emotionally distant.) If it weren't for his rather mystical grandma, their practical, supportive housekeeper, and the welcoming family of a friend, he might not have turned out so well. For solace, Xeno immerses himself in the fanciful stories of animals told to him, and when introduced to the medieval bestiaries by his his teacher, becomes obsessed with finding the long lost Caravan Bestiary, which has eluded scholars and historians for centuries.

Unfortunately, it takes almost half of the book for Xeno to set off on his quest. The first part is devoted to his emotionally deprived childhood and a shorter segment about his Vietnam War service. When he finally is able to get his act together, the narrative, while competently written, dwells mostly, and rather clinically, on description of Xeno's research efforts. While The Bestiary tells an interesting story, incorporating mythical and religious detail, the lyrical, poetic aspects so highly praised in some reviews was not its outstanding feature, in my experience.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Dreadful April 8, 2011
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Maybe it's me, but I found this to be a slow, long-winded story about a man who wasn't particularly likable. A man who never seems to work for anything he gets(including Harvard, a Purple Heart/Silver Star and the bevy of promiscuous women that naturally fall under his spell). He's also a man who is never gainfully employed and who still believes in unicorns. I think it was trying to be the Da Vinci Code with all the travel and the searching but it doesn't come close. Mind-numbing, boring and just plain bad.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The first of his books I read December 1, 2007
By Deb
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I notice that other reviewers liked the first christopher novel they read the best; That was true for me with this book. Beautifully written, a compelling mystery and fascinating characters. After I finished Bestiary, I read all his earlier novels which I enjoyed, but not quite as much as The Bestiary (Franklin Flyer was my second favorite. There is a simplicity that I really liked to this book). Strongly recommend Christopher,especially if you are partial to magical realism.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars effortlessly beautiful page-turning fun August 7, 2007
nicholas christopher's books are not-so guilty pleasures of mine. not-so guilty because they're just so much fun to read -- effortlessly beautiful page-turning prose following an intellectual (usually arcane) quest. he's quietly building a unique body of work. if you're the kind of person who wanted less action and more book-browsing in far-flung libraries in Raiders of the Lost Ark (which isn't to say ROTLA isn't one of the most perfect movies ever), his books might appeal to you, especially this one, featuring conscipuously named characters like Xeno Atlas, the protagonist, and his lifelong search (1950s - 80s) from the Bronx to Paris to Venice to Crete for an obscure illuminated book called the Caravan Bestiary. legend holds this book contains descriptions of all the animals that failed to make it on to noah's ark. it may not be powerfully deep in the end, but reading this is mostly about sumptuous intellectual escapism in the hands of a wonderful imagination. i'd also recommend A Trip to the Stars by christopher. his poetry books are excellent too, as they also excel in narrative and mood.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely lyrical prose July 14, 2007
"I felt the spirits of animals. In the instants of entering or leaving sleep I caught glimpses of them: an upturned snout, a lizard eye, a glinting talon, the flash of a wing. Hooves kicked up sparks by my cheek. Fur bristled. Teeth clicked. I heard pants, Howls. Plaintive cries.

And at dawn they were gone."

Xeno Atlas grew up with strange stories about beasts who inhabit a world just barely outside our world. Motherless, the boy was raised in the Bronx by his Sicilian grandmother, a woman who seemed to have the ability to shapeshift into an animal and back again. Her stories fueled the fire of Xeno's imagination, starting him on a lifetime love of animals, especially mythical animals of the sort represented in the lost book Caravan Bestiary.

From a young age Xeno was obsessed with the idea of finding this rare book, as well as the animals mentioned in it. His childhood was lonely. Not only had his mother died when he was too young to know her, but his seaman father was away on voyages more than he was home. Even on the rare occasions when his father was home he was distant, blaming Xeno's birth for his beloved wife's death.

Xeno's quest for the Caravan Bestiary takes him from New York to Viet Nam, and from there to the great libraries in Europe as he searches everywhere for this illusive volume. Ultimately he had to unravel dark family secrets in order to complete his quest, freeing him at last from his all-consuming obsession.

This is a compelling, lushly written book, with elements of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in its often lyrical prose.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not my favorite
Nicholas Christopher is my favorite author. I adore all his fictional novels apart from this one. The animal imaginary is exceptional, but the plot line didn't keep me interested... Read more
Published on January 8, 2011 by Nell
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost a perfect book
I really wanted to give this book 5 stars, based on Nicholas Christopher's evocative prose alone. But the story itself didn't quite push over merely terrific to perfect! Read more
Published on July 24, 2010 by Arzurama
3.0 out of 5 stars Too few mentions of the titular bestiary, amidst years of emo
This is a mixed novel. Slow, frequently dull sections relate the rather pat details of Xeno's life: unloved as a child, fought in Vietnam, protested against war, various romances. Read more
Published on November 6, 2009 by A. D. MacFarlane
3.0 out of 5 stars "I was determined to undertake my own quest..."
... This book has an amazing sense of magic - but can't seem to hold on to it. It gets lost in extensive narratives and historical mud that reeks at times of The Davinci Code. Read more
Published on January 24, 2009 by Akethan
4.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous monsters
Nicholas Christopher's charming "The Bestiary" belongs to the literary detective genre, and a fine example it is. Read more
Published on November 4, 2008 by lb136
5.0 out of 5 stars An intelligent and gripping collision of mythology and biography
The Bestiary is Nicholas Christopher's fifth novel, and like its predecessors, it's full of that peculiar magic that springs from the unexpected intrusion of lost mythologies into... Read more
Published on October 24, 2008 by Jason Fisher
3.0 out of 5 stars Something falls flat here.
"The first beast I laid eyes on was my father." Xeno Atlas is obsessed. He is obsessed with his dead mother, with his emotionally and physically distant father who blames Xeno for... Read more
Published on May 9, 2008 by Lynda Lippin
2.0 out of 5 stars Lost Along The Way
The most interesting thing about "The Bestiary" was that it was a book about a lost book that itself got lost along the way. Read more
Published on January 10, 2008 by christopher legacy
4.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Christopher
I really enjoyed this book, though not quite as much as "Veronica," "Franklin Flyer," or "Trip to the Stars. Read more
Published on September 19, 2007 by Philip James
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More About the Author

Nicholas Christopher is the author of four previous novels, The Soloist, Veronica, A Trip to the Stars, and Franklin Flyer, eight books of poetry, and a book about film noir, Somewhere in the Night. He lives in New York City.

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