Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch

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SHORTLISTED for the 2011 Man Booker Prize for Fiction

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Carol Birch

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CAROL BIRCH is the author of nine other novels published in Britain. She has won the David Higham Award for Life in the Palace and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for The Fog Line, and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2003 for Turn Again Home.
Published June 14, 2011 by Vintage. 306 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Action & Adventure. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Jamrach's Menagerie

The New York Times

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In Carol Birch’s historical novel, a young boy is lured on a sea voyage to hunt for a Komodo dragon in the East Indies.

Jul 29 2011 | Read Full Review of Jamrach's Menagerie

The Bookbag

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Sep 02 2011 | Read Full Review of Jamrach's Menagerie

Dallas News

Its narrator is a young boy named Jaffy Brown, who begs to be described as a Dickensian “street urchin,” but whose life changes irrevocably after he encounters a tiger on a street near the Thames and proves uncommonly brave when the animal takes the boy into its mouth.

Jun 17 2011 | Read Full Review of Jamrach's Menagerie

We Love This Book

It is not long before he and his friend from the menagerie, Tim, are bound for the south seas on an errand for Jamrach, tasked with bringing home what is rumoured to be a dragon from an island in the South Pacific.

Mar 02 2011 | Read Full Review of Jamrach's Menagerie


At the job, Jaffy befriends Tim Linver, who is beautiful and occasionally cruel, but ultimately - tragically - proves himself the most steadfast of friends.

Jul 02 2011 | Read Full Review of Jamrach's Menagerie


Based loosely on the disastrous voyage of the whaling ship Essex, Jamrach's Menagerie explores the claustrophobia and the madness of a protracted sea trip.

| Read Full Review of Jamrach's Menagerie

Red Online

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Sep 28 2011 | Read Full Review of Jamrach's Menagerie

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