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UnavailableParrot and Olivier in America
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Parrot and Olivier in America

Written by Peter Carey

Narrated by Gordon Griffin and Jonathan Keeble


Unavailable in your country

Parrot and Olivier in America

Written by Peter Carey

Narrated by Gordon Griffin and Jonathan Keeble

ratings:
3.5/5 (39 ratings)
Length:
17 hours
Released:
Jan 9, 2010
ISBN:
9781407423388
Format:
Audiobook

Description

Olivier is a French aristocrat, the traumatised child of survivors of the Revolution. Parrot is the son of an itinerant printer who always wanted to be an artist but ended up a servant. Born on different sides of history, their lives are brought together by their travels in America. When Olivier sets sail for the New World, Parrot is sent with him, as spy, protector, foe and foil.
Released:
Jan 9, 2010
ISBN:
9781407423388
Format:
Audiobook

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What people think about Parrot and Olivier in America

3.6
39 ratings / 42 Reviews
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Reader reviews

  • (1/5)
    Dislike!! A most tedious read.
  • (5/5)
    Loved listening to this book. The narrator, Humphrey Bower, does an excellent job portraying the different characters. History, humor and adventure all in one volume. I believe this is a book that is better as an audiobook than in print. At least, that is my guess.
  • (4/5)
    Olivier is the son of French aristocrats who barely escaped execution during the French Revolution. When the situation in France once again becomes dangerous for members of the aristocracy, Olivier's parents manage to get him a commission to study the American penal system. Parrot is the son of an English engraver who, through a series of misfortunes, ended up in France as a servant of the Marquis de Tilbot. As a result of the Marquis's infatuation with Olivier's mother, Parrot is sent to America to keep tabs on Olivier and report back to the Comtesse. Parrot and Olivier alternately narrate their stories from their childhood to their voyage to America and their sojourns in New York and Connecticut.This novel is loosely based on the life of Alexis de Tocqueville, author of Democracy in America, based on observations made during his travels in America. Both men struggle to embrace democracy early in their journey. Olivier has his aristocratic upbringing to overcome, while the middle-aged Parrot fears that he is too old to change his ways. I found Parrot the more sympathetic of the two men, and I think that was Carey's intention. It was Parrot who had the Australian connection.
  • (3/5)
    Much too long and rambling. I never cared about either of the title characters, and didn't know how much of the account was based on de Toqueville's actual experience and how much was invention. By the time I had slogged through the entire novel (book group selection), I was more than ready to say good-bye to both Parrot and Olivier.
  • (4/5)
    Peter Carey's writing in this book is brilliant, especially his alternating pair of highly unreliable narrators. Much of the story is fascinating and the observations thought provoking. But in the end the fact that I didn't find myself really caring about any of the characters was a real minus.

    The book tells a highly fictionalized account of Tocqueville's travels to America, with an even more fictionalized English servant who accompanies him to spy on him but then takes more to the American style and tries to express himself as an artist.

    The cast of ancillary characters in this picaresque tale is just as good and you have to read the novel to appreciate that they cannot be reduced to their simple descriptors of English forgers, a French spy, a French courtesan/artist, a dishonest American capitalist, and the closest thing to the bourgeoisie offered by New England.

    But when the hero's mother is using ruses to try to break up his imminent marriage to an American girl and you find that you don't much care one way or the other if she succeeds, you know that a book is falling short of perfection -- and well short of the Dickens' novels to which Carey is too often compared.
  • (5/5)
    This novel has it all! Travel from post French Revolution France to England to post Revolutionary War America to Australia and back again, with Parrot, an indentured servant, and Olivier, a French "child of the Guillotine" and the French Revolution. Root for their loves to flourish, for their fortunes to grow, for their art to be appreciated, and for their minds and hearts to be opened. I did! If you enjoy a multi-themed plot with engaging characters, then this is for you. I found the observations of the characters of various political systems and class systems to be really interesting!
  • (4/5)
    Sometimes I feel like I'm just not smart enough to read Peter Carey's novels. I always run across words I've never seen before, foreign terms, and such subtlety that I miss the point. In spite of that, however, I'm always enthralled with his writings and this novel doesn't disappoint. Mr. Carey's depiction of two very different characters tells a lot about how childhood does shape a person, and in this telling, shows how a nation is shaped by the people that create it or "recreate" it in the case of rebellion.In short, very unique characters, interesting plot, but way too many foreign phrases that I just didn't understand. This is not an easy read, but one worth pursuing.
  • (2/5)
    Stopped about 33% in. Laborious and aimless. Well written but not terribly engaging.
  • (1/5)
    Verbose, pretentious, shallow and contrived. Hated it from the start, and it went downhill from there.
  • (4/5)
    Olivier is the aristocratic son of a French royalist family that finds himself sent to America by his parents to protect him from civil unrest. Parrot is a Dickensian orphan who floats through life on the tides of good and ill fortune. Together they forge a bond that morphs over time from initial disdain to grudging coexistence to, eventually, friendship. Along the way, Carey sweeps us through Paris during the tumultuous years following the French revolution, past the windswept moors and bustling ports of England, before finally plopping us in U.S. colonies during the first years of our country’s history. Admit it took a long time for me to warm up to this odd book, which tries to fuse whimsical Dickensian narrative and social satire but doesn't quite succeed at either. The preliminary chapters, in which we are introduced to the fussy infant Oliver and the scrappy orphan Parrot, tend to plod; not because Carry doesn’t know what he’s doing, but because we don’t know what Carry’s doing … not for many, many, many chapters later. You’ll have to take it on faith that the characters and incidents that occur in these chapters turn out to be relevant, eventually. Nor is the social/political satire very convincing ... perhaps because he sees a little too much of his native Australia in this tale of another scrappy, upstart nation? It’s when our two “odd couple” protagonists end up in harness in the U.S., ostensibly conducting a French government-commissioned study on the American prison system, that the story started to suck me in: partly because I found Carey's satiric depiction of Americans entertaining, partly because this is when the interaction between the characters finally began to get interesting, partly because this is when all that content from the earlier chapters finally becomes relevant and you begin to appreciate the way in which Carey is assembling all the disparate pieces into a whole.I gather from the blurbs on the book cover that I’m not the only reader to draw parallels between Carey and Dickens, another author who knew how to pull together eclectic characters and disparate subplots into a narrative whole. Also Dickensian: the way Carey uses dialect and slang to create distinctive voices for each of his characters. This can make portions of the text hard reading – especially since Carey doesn’t spoonfeed us the plot, but relies on us to extract it from the narrative. That having been said, Carey is no Dickens: I had a hard time liking either of the protagonists or caring what happened to them, a flaw Dickens never would have tolerated. Overall, I thought the book generally worth the time it took to read. However, I'm not sure I'd read another Carey on the strength of this one ... at least not so long as there Dickensian tales actually written by Dickens still in my "to read" pile.
  • (5/5)
    I liked this very much. It's a slow read, which suits me as a slow reader—but not a draggy or boring one at all. There are a lot of layers here underneath Carey's extravagant language: political, psychological, historical. It's not very plot-driven, but rather all atmosphere and early 19th-century mores. Actually I think the political component was my favorite, as it drove everything else along neatly without being didactic. Not sure if it would have helped to have read de Tocqueville first—he's the basis for Olivier, and this is the imagined story of his writings on America—but it's to Carey's credit that I didn't feel too strongly that I was missing something because I haven't. Even more so, now I'm interested in taking a look at the real thing, having been softened up by this very deliciously detailed scenario. Just fun reading all the way through, worth taking the time for and cogitating on a bit as I went along, and I don't begrudge it the book the time it took one bit.Time to dust off my abandoned bedside copy of Simon Schama's [book: Citizens20917785] and get back to my reading about the French Revolution.
  • (5/5)
    Parrot and Olivier are mismatched partners if ever any did exist. Parrot is a rough-and-tumble middle-aged Englishman employed a French nobleman; Olivier is the spoiled, near-sighted son of French aristocrats. They hate each other on sight, yet through the machinations of their employer and parents, respectively, they are forced together on a voyage to the nascent country of the United States. Olivier is supposed to avoid having his head chopped off; Parrot is to keep Olivier out of trouble. This novel is loosely based on the journey of Alexis de Tocqueville that produced Democracy in America. This book contains delightful historical details about the early period of our country’s nationhood, as well as likeable characters and the occasional dose of Peter Carey’s sly sense of humor.
  • (4/5)
    This is the first time I've given a Peter Carey novel (or short story collection) less than 4 stars. It wasn't bad as such, but I kept waiting to be as well and truly grabbed as I have been by Carey in the past. Parrot and those close to him are the characters to whom I felt most drawn, while Olivier seemed too much of a stereotype to be believed. Not even the sly glances in the direction of Proust, whose À la recherche du temps perdu I am reading (and loving) at the moment could really spark my interest in him. Perhaps the stereotype is the point and I'm falling into my usual trap of reading things too literally. In any case, I shan't need to reread this one, so that gives me a little more space on my bookshelves!
  • (5/5)
    French aristocracy was mightily inconvenienced by the Revolution, some couldn't avoid the guillotine, others had to flee abroad, the rest hunkered down. What for us takes half an hour to recount in a history class, takes the lifetime of an entire generation for the contemporaries to witness. The transition was not straightforward, it oscillated between the times of revolution and the times of counter-revolution. These forces of despair and hope battered the life of a young aristocrat -- Olivier de Garmont.Olivier's forced trip to America, a hastily put together escape from another of France's rioting bouts, the Revolution of of 1830, is the perfect vessel to carry him across agonizing deliberations on the crumbling ancient regime and this new thing, the democracy. His natural society is of noblemen brought up to lead the nation, not having to work they had all the time and comfort to entertain the destiny of the state, unlike the people of America, who, in condition of constant agitation, are pushing incessantly into advancing their own individual status. It is obvious to him that misfortunes should befall this young nation, this new democracy which made itself without the benefit of a noble class.John “Parrot” Larrit also takes on a multitude of buffeting in life, but starting from a much lower base. He is born in the moneyless bottom, roaming Southern England, he and his father scramble to survive. But Parrot is happy with his da.Parrot is made a servant, to Olivier it was an arrangement that justly reflected the disparity of social class. While the ship was still going in the Atlantic the discomforts of democracy are increasingly made evident, Olivier had to adapt to this new égalité.The book is told from a first person perspective, alternating chapters told by Parrot and then by Olivier. Carey wrote in a way that faithfully transported me back in time. Passages of humorous observation take turns with some serious study of the ebullient American nation. Very inspiring writing.
  • (4/5)
    Very enjoyable, and also an interesting commentary on the French revolution and new democracy in the US, and particulary the different perspectives of the main characters.
  • (3/5)
    This is the second Peter Carey novel I've read (the first was Jack Maggs), on both occasions - given the author's reputation - in hope of a great read, only to be relatively disappointed. In the case of Parrot and Oliver in America, the plot was intriguing enough: during the Napoleonic Wars an orphaned English boy, through twists and turns of the plot, becomes a servant of a French aristocrat. In the aftermath of the July 1830 revolution in France, that servant is sent to supervise the aristocrat's adult son trip to the US. The book then chronicles their American experiences, focusing on the cultural contrast between the hierarchal society they left behind and the open democracy they were in. But somehow, the author's style failed to bring the story to life. Though some scenes left vivid pictures in your mind, the plot is strangely discombobulated. Despite their various travails, the characters appear emotionally unaffected. Though there was just enough of interest to keep me reading to the end, I doubt I'll read another of Carey's novels.
  • (4/5)
    A very pleasant read! Reminded me a bit of The Sotweed Factor … a memory dim after over 40 years.
  • (3/5)
    This novel is based on Alexis de Toqueville's visit to America. His evolving understanding of America is mirrored in the growing democratization of his relationship with his servant. I thought it took too long to get going, but did improve once the two got to America.
  • (4/5)
    A well written book with excellent prose, interesting characters, and a good perspective on the times. I had always wanted to read a book by Peter Carey and chose this because it was a National Book Award finalist. Unfortunately, the book did not totally engage me. The main characters were given to wild mood swings and inconsistencies. There were some plot elements that were hard to follow. It was as if Carey wished to stuff his book with every literary tool that he had at his disposable. It was almost a bit too much. Glad I read it from a historical perspective and would recommend it on that level.
  • (5/5)
    Using dual narrators, Peter Carey deftly portrays America, and to a lesser extent France and England, in the time frame following the French Revolution.Our first narrator, is Olivier de Garmont, who by necessity engendered from his standing as a French aristocrat, must vacate France. To avoid political censure and create a face-saving reason for running away, it is decided that he will travel to America and write a book, supposedly for the French government, on the prison system in the New World. Olivier’s character is loosely based on Alexis de Tocqueville and his writing of Democracy in America.Through various machinations of plot our other narrator, John “Parrot” Larrit, a poor Englishman of humble beginnings, finds himself thrown into the position of servant to Olivier and on his way to America as well.By turns humorous, enlightening, touching, and gripping, Mr. Carey’s novel is an intricately complex page-turner of the very best sort. A portrait of the social culture of the America of the age is gently unfolded as the pampered, old world aristocrat and the down-trodden servant begin to equalize in matters of intellect, patriotism, cunning, respect, love and friendship. The audio, put out by Blackstone and narrated by Humphrey Bower, will without a doubt be my number one audio for 2011. Given that this year I have listened to far more books than I have read in print, that is quite high praise. Mr. Bower so perfectly captures the accent and persona of both characters that I was surprised to realize that the book, which uses the format of alternating chapters being narrated from the viewpoint of each character in turn, did not use two different actors, one for each voice.I absolutely loved this novel. It has everything a reader could wish for in a good work of historical fiction in terms of research smoothly intertwined within the plot, compelling characters (both from history and Mr. Carey’s imagination), and vivid prose that drew me in whether the topic was of a personal or societal nature. Whether you choose to listen to Humphrey Bower’s masterful performance or let Peter Carey’s words speak for themselves, this is an absolute must read.
  • (2/5)
    Big disappointment to me despite the rave reviews and appearances on top ten lists. I've liked everything else i've read by him more than this book. It was too ambitious -- full of promise ultimately unfulfilled. “…The Revolution had drowned her beauty in a lake of fear.” p79
  • (4/5)
    i liked parrot. irene intervened just about the time i was ready to digest this book in behalf of our bookclub. some books are the victim of history. i had to give it up when our heros had reached manhattan's shores, and were beginning their experience of life in the new world. maybe if I'd picked it up there at the outset, the urge to complete it would have been stronger. i won't challenge the assertion of carey's articulate pen, and i do recall quite a few chuckles, especially at parrot's expense. but, i can only stand in front of the mona lisa for so long. many years ago, while an undergraduate, a mentor, bob johnson, in mpls (where else) observed, "you don't have to spend five minutes in new york to know you don't want to live there. so it is with a book". parrot and olivier in american kept postponing that five minutes, until the clock ran out.
  • (1/5)
    Couldn't get into it.
  • (4/5)
    This was great fun. Peter Carey starts with the story of de Tocqueville and lets his imagination run. On the serious side it is concerned with trying to get into the skin of a French aristocrat and understand his gradual changes as he lives in a democratic society.
  • (5/5)
    An astoundingly good book that manages to not only examine complex issues like the transition of constitutions from aristocracies to democracies but also packsa a good story in with a whole lot of humour. Great characters with other-wordly storylines are woven in throughout the narrative and the sense of a changing world as Olivier and Parrot travel around is immense. How will this changing world effect our heroes? For beter or worse? I for one felt the characters were immensely likeable with a lot of depth to them aswell. This is the second Carey book that I have read and I am looking forward to reading more of an author who is rapidly creeping into my top ten list!
  • (5/5)
    Parrot is a lower-class English boy whose father is an itinerant engraver with no real home. After a series of misadventures, Parrot is separated from his father and rescued by the Marquis de Tilbot, a Royalist French spy. He is the link that connects Parrot and Olivier, a young French aristocrat born right after the Revolution. Olivier's parents had escaped the guillotine and still held their ancestral estate. Fearing another revolution, the parents send the by-then young man to America on the pretext of writing a book on the American prison system. Unwilling to go, he is tricked onto the ship by family friend, Tilbot, who also arranges for the older Parrot to go as his servant. The heart of the book then begins with the experiences of the two in America. Olivier sees the new, uncultured society through the eyes of privilege, used to having his comfort and wishes a priority. In letters to his mother, he comments on the strange ways of these people. This, of course, leads to comparisons with de Toqueville's book. Parrot finds himself a servant in a society that worships the principles of equality. Their very different experiences are what you might expect given their backgrounds. Carey surrounds them with fascinating characters. With surprising plot turns, the reader is swept along. This is the first book I have read of Carey's and was struck by his remarkable craftsmanship in telling this story.
  • (2/5)
    I was looking forward to reading this, but it didn't live up to expectations. Lots of nice lines, some very good bits and pieces of stories, but when he puts it all together it doesn't really seem to add up to anything. There's a bit of a send-up of de Tocqueville, some vaguely Jeremy Bentham/Foucault stuff about prisons, a Dickensian tale of forgery and insurance fraud, and a master-servant plot that is obviously supposed to make us think of Papageno and Tamino. Some of the period details are a bit ropey too, especially when he ventures on board a Royal Navy ship taking prisoners to Australia and clearly either doesn't have a clue or is taking perverse pleasure in setting the teeth of naval fiction buffs on edge. Carey has never been the most focussed of writers, but he usually manages to make some sort of sense emerge from the chaos: this time it doesn't.
  • (2/5)
    I was a little disappointed in this historical novel; was hoping I'd like it more. The author, Peter Carey, does have a great way with words at times. And the sense of France and America in the 1830s is evoked nicely in various passages; you get a good feel for the social and physical environment of those times. Still, the narrative flow was often awkward, such as when we get a flashback to Parrot on a penal ship to Australia. I never found myself liking or caring about the characters all that much. The plot developments weren't any more interesting than you'd find in anyone's personal diary. The story itself didn't amount to all that much. The one-armed Frenchman was an odd character who I could never quite figure out. Would have a hard time recommending it to a friend.
  • (3/5)
    I liked this book. I had read a review of it and it looked like an interesting read so when our library got it in I checked it out. I loved the beginning, and my interested was still being held through the middle. There was a lot going on and the story wandered some but you could see that the author was headed somewhere. I had a problem with the last hundred pages or so. The author just seemed to be wandering around endlessly. I read to the end of the book but did not find the ending to be satisfactory.
  • (5/5)
    I really enjoyed "Parrot and Olivier in America", the first book by Peter Carey that I've read (and, I hope, it won't be the last!). Carey did his homework to create a realistic historical framework in which to launch his characters and story. The book is well written and flows smoothly, quickly, engagingly, and interestingly. I liked the stories of the book's two main protagonists, their personal transformations, and the relationship that evolved between the once-unrepentant aristocrat and his idealistic everyman helpmate. Carey gives the reader lots to think about, and does so with classy writing and vivid imagery.