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The Bestiary Paperback – June 24, 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Dial Press Trade Paperback; Reprint edition (June 24, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038533737X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385337373
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #393,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


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.

Customer Reviews

His trek takes him around the world in search of the lost text, but he also learns to love and be loved.
Harriet Klausner
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.
KP
Rather than reiterate his points, I'd just add that at times the book seemed to be a chronicle of life doing research for a book.
M. S. Walker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By KP on July 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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 By Linda Pagliuco VINE VOICE on June 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
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 By Deb on December 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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 By wordtron on August 7, 2007
Format: Hardcover
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By scubadiversong on 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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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Bluestalking Reader VINE VOICE on July 14, 2007
Format: Hardcover
"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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