Peter Carey is the author of ten 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.
Peter Carey is one of Australias finest writers, and a two-time winner of the prestigious Man Booker Prize, so a new novel is always a major event. In recent years he has been more prolific than ever, with Parrot and Olivier in America following hard on the heels of His Illegal Self and Theft before it. After those two novels, and My Life as a Fake, which were all set in the 20th-century, Carey has made a return to the 19th-century in his new work. It s a time period that has been fruitful for him, with both of his Man Booker Prize-winning novels, Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang, being set in that century. Parrot and Olivier in America is a fictionalised 'reimagining of Alexis de Tocquevilles journey to America, which formed the basis of his hugely influential work Democracy in America. In Carey s novel he has been transformed into Olivier de Garmont, a somewhat feckless young French aristocrat whose parents narrowly avoided the guillotine during the revolution. In order to save Olivier from the political situation in 1830s France, his mother ships him off to America on the pretext of studying American prisons, a job which he comes to take quite seriously. Accompanying him is John Larrit, or 'Parrot', an English servant who is rather reluctant to serve, and who has a fascinating history of his own. As he has done in his previous few novels, Carey makes good use of alternating points of view, with the chapters being narrated by Olivier and Parrot in turn. This technique gives all of the advantages of a first person narrator, including having a distinctive voice', without being restricted by a single perspective on events. Carey populates the novel with a number of other distinctive characters, including the one-armed Marquis de Tilbot, the forger Algernon Watkins who aspires to produce the best book of birds the world has ever seen (Carey is obviously inspired by John James Audubon here), and Martine, an artist s assistant whose work surpasses her master s. Carey is at the peak of his powers as a novelist and Parrot and Olivier in America fits into a long tradition of picaresque tales about journeying to America, including Daniel Defoe s Moll Flanders and John Barths The Sot-Weed Factor. Fans of Carey s work wont need much encouragement to pick this up, but it should have widespread appeal in Australia and overseas. Blair Mahoney teaches English, literature and philosophy at Melbourne High School and is the author of Poetry Reloaded, a textbook for secondary students
Carey's fictionalization of Alexis de Tocqueville's trip to America that inspired Tocqueville's study Democracy in America makes for lively listening. As the arrogant Olivier-Jean-Baptiste de Clarel de Barfleur de Garmont-a nobleman (and Tocqueville stand-in) sent abroad by his parents who are scandalized by his political involvement-and Parrot, his Australian manservant (and a secret spy), arrive in the New World, Humphrey Bower dexterously juggles American, British, and French accents and keeps each characters distinct and multidimensional. He glides Parrot and Olivier's wild mood and opinion swings and makes romantic passages light and moving. A Knopf hardcover (Reviews, Nov. 9). (Apr.) Copyright 2010 Reed Business Information.
"Carey has twice won the Man Booker Prize and by all rights should be nominated for a third for "Parrot and Olivier in America," a novel as big and bold as the country itself. This work showcases Carey at his finest, bringing together all his considerable strengths and obsessions . . . Carey [is] a sheer magician with language . . . He delivers a riot of unexpected plot twists and pleasures . . . An utter tour de force . . . Columbus might have discovered America, but with this new novel, Carey gives us the thrill of discovering his adopted home--our adopted home--all over again."--"Miami Herald""Another feat of acrobatic ventriloquism, joining Carey's masterpieces, "Jack Maggs "and "True History of the Kelly Gang ." . . Carey's most marvelous invention is Tocqueville's traveling companion, Parrot . . . It's a brilliant alteration of history and a source of rich comedy . . . Outrageous and witty." --Ron Charles, "Washington Post"" """Parrot and Olivier "is amusing and wise and graceful to a degree that we almost don't deserve."--Laura Miller, "Salon" "Peter Carey re-imagines Alexis de Tocqueville's American journey with a verve that is nothing short of captivating. "Parrot and Olivier "is a rollicking debate about America and its opportunities, its society and class distinctions. Carey's characters and landscapes breathe, resulting in a work that one hates to see come to an end . . . It is one timely work of historical fiction."--"Denver Post" "Carey is as various, often as brilliant, and always as irreverent as they come . . . Mischievous but with a serious underlay.""--"Richard Eder, "Boston Globe"" ""Carey braids his story carefully, lovingly. It has all his telltale favorite elements--lawlessness, revolution, hope for the future, men driven by passion. At its heart, "Parrot and Olivier "is a western; the simplest story in history, sculpted down to a twinkle in a philosopher's eye: Man's search for free