Tuesday, April 06, 2010


I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

PARROT AND OLIVIER IN AMERICA is a fictionalized account of Alexis de Tocqueville's experiences in America. Carey imagines Tocqueville as a spoiled self-centered French aristocrat named Olivier de Garmont.  Olivier is sent to America by his parents in order to protect him from the civil unrest going on in France.  They send along John "Parrot" Larrit to babysit and spy on Olivier. While Olivier has lived a life of privilege and ease, Parrot comes from a background of extreme hardship. The two detest one another immediately but are both affected in profound ways by their experiences in the young country of America. These experiences help them to forge an unlikely friendship.

Carey is a very gifted writer.  Parrot and Olivier offer the reader a look into the American experiment in its infancy by revealing the effects this country has on two very different people.  Olivier struggles to make sense of this country without an aristocracy and his growing affection for it. Parrot sees America as a chance to reinvent himself and finally move on from his past.  Their adventures are often humorous as they attempt to negotiate this strange new world.

While I enjoyed PARROT AND OLIVIER IN AMERICA, I found it difficult to read. The story bounces back and forth between Parrot and Olivier and backwards and forwards through time as well. It was often confusing to figure out who was narrating each section. In many scenes, I could not make heads or tails out of what was going on. This made an otherwise enjoyable read a bit of a burden to tackle.  I did appreciate the fact that the reader is able to catch a glimpse of early America from two very different viewpoints.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended. However, this is not an easy read. It can be difficult to follow the storyline at times.  It often felt as if Carey was getting bogged down by his literary devices. It's a clever book overall, though.

1 comment:

Hannah Stoneham said...

I love Peter Carey and am looking forward to your review.