Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

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Synopsis

Parrot and Olivier in America has been shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize.


From the two-time Booker Prize–winning author comes an irrepressibly funny new novel set in early nineteenth-century America.

Olivier—an improvisation on the life of Alexis de Tocqueville—is the traumatized child of aristocratic survivors of the French Revolution. Parrot is the motherless son of an itinerant English printer. They are born on different sides of history, but their lives will be connected by an enigmatic one-armed marquis.

When Olivier sets sail for the nascent United States—ostensibly to make a study of the penal system, but more precisely to save his neck from one more revolution—Parrot will be there, too: as spy for the marquis, and as protector, foe, and foil for Olivier.

As the narrative shifts between the perspectives of Parrot and Olivier, between their picaresque adventures apart and together—in love and politics, prisons and finance, homelands and brave new lands—a most unlikely friendship begins to take hold. And with their story, Peter Carey explores the experiment of American democracy with dazzling inventiveness and with all the richness and surprise of characterization, imagery, and language that we have come to expect from this superlative writer.


From the Hardcover edition.
 

About Peter Carey

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PETER CAREY is the author of eleven previous novels and has twice received the Booker Prize. His other honors include the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Born in Australia, he has lived in New York City for twenty years.
 
Published April 12, 2010 by Vintage. 402 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction, Humor & Entertainment. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Parrot and Olivier in America

Kirkus Reviews

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Carey’s nobleman is a playful distortion of de Tocqueville, for Olivier is a nincompoop, myopic both literally and figuratively, with zero interest in prisons and slow to realize the resourcefulness of his savvy Parrot.

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The New York Times

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Sailors cling “to the rigging like soft fruit in a storm,” while inside a dark parlor old ladies sit “wetting their hairy chins with stout.” But as the book’s bravura paragraphs grow into chapters, the author seems unable to decide whether it’s “Democracy in America” or “Martin Chuzzlewit” or, on...

Apr 16 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

The New York Times

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It is in this capacity that Parrot goes off to America, to look after and report on Olivier for the young lawyer’s mother, the Countess de Garmont, with whom Tilbot is in love.

Apr 16 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

The Guardian

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Tracy Chevalier explains the Public Lending Right – how authors are paid for library loans, and the Bookseller's Benedicte Page looks through the most loaned titles.

Feb 12 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

The Guardian

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It certainly gives Parrot considerable power over Olivier: readers may even begin to wonder how far Parrot is responsible for the sections of the narrative that appear under Olivier's name.

Feb 14 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

The Guardian

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While enjoying Peter Carey's Parrot and Olivier in America, I found myself wondering from time to time what it was about.

Jan 30 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

BC Books

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Olivier is modeled loosely on Alexis de Tocqueville, author of the the classic textbook on the US democratic system De la démocratie en Amérique (Democracy in America), but is an entirely fictional character, enriched through his connection to the other narrator Parrot, aka John Larrit, a down to...

May 16 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

NPR

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I am, as I often declare myself, a wretched beast.Behold, the dreadful little creature — his head under a towel, engulfed in steam, and the good Bebe, who was as often my nurse as my tutor and confessor, sitting patiently at my side, his big hand on my narrow back while I gasped for life so long ...

May 11 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

Book Reporter

Since bookmakers start taking bets on these coveted literary prizes early, odds are that more than a few people will be putting money down on Carey to be the first three-time Booker winner, based on the promise of his latest remarkable historical novel, PARROT AND OLIVIER IN AMERICA.

Jan 14 2011 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

AV Club

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Parrot And Olivier In America offers up a life of Alexis de Tocqueville (fictionalized, as Olivier de Garmont) and his manservant Parrot (fictitious) as two men equally ill-suited to judge a fledgling democracy.

Apr 29 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

The Washington Post

History provides the basic outline for "Parrot & Olivier in America," and much of its commentary comes from "Democracy in America," but Carey, like Tocqueville, is a promiscuous traveler who departs from the map whenever he feels the urge.

Apr 28 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

The Telegraph

Olivier’s belief that art cannot exist in America, where the common man dictates its price, is refuted by Parrot, who makes a book of engravings.

Feb 13 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

The Telegraph

The two men take an immediate loathing to one another: Olivier suspects – rightly – that Parrot has been sent to spy on him by his parents, while Parrot bitterly resents being another man’s chattel.

Jan 25 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

Christian Science Monitor

Alexis de Tocqueville doesn’t seem a likely candidate for a buddy comedy.

May 12 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

Dallas News

Just as Jack Maggs was a spiky homage to Great Expectations, so Parrot and Olivier is a sly-winking tribute to Democracy in America.

Apr 25 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

Review (Barnes & Noble)

Peter Carey's eleventh novel, an "improvisation" on the life of Alexis de Tocqueville, offers no serious revelations about that nineteenth-century French aristocrat's views on democracy in America, and for that we should be grateful.

Apr 20 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

London Review of Books

Parrot and Olivier in America is the singular and surprising offspring of an unlikely coupling between two different novels: one, a fantasia on Tocqueville’s travels in America in 1831, the other a picaresque romance about an Englishman called John Larrit (known as Parrot for his talent as a mimi...

Aug 05 2010 | Read Full Review of Parrot and Olivier in America

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