Carol Birch: Jamrach's Menagerie



The cat and strokes it s nose He wondered what it felt like He is promptly taken by the tiger in its mouth until the owner of the store Jamrach arrives and gets the tiger to drop him unharmed He sees a young girl that day slightly older than he is and he nds up working with her twin brother Tim at Jamrach s store his Menagerie mostly cleaning up after the many different kinds of animals When he turns 15 he and Tim go off to sea primarily to help Jamrach s supplier of animals to capture and return a fabled dragon that is believed to be living on an island in the area of Indonesia The ship they travel on is a whaler and they also spend time hunting whales This turns into uite an adventure that is so well told and written that I was riveted and greatly Death in Mumbai enjoyedvery moment of the book Baccarat : La lgende du cristal even the portions that seemed a bit drawn out but that was intentional and part of the point Not suitable for vegetariansWell not for sueamish vegetariansActually no scrub that Not suitable for the sueamish full stopBut I really liked it so Not sueamish lovely word Andor there are compensations for the ickiness Yes Jaffy s voice is a steal Birch creates him and his world conjures them up out of nothing and there is no sense of artifice it plops smoothly into place alongside anythinglse you have read of 19th century London Then he is wrenched away and of course we know it s all going to go disastrously catastrophically of course it will but then that s what we want isn t it To vicariously live out the horror Dickens and Melville on a stick and home again in time for tea Adventure without the tears That ll do me fine The origin of the story can be found here Jamrach s Menagerie is the most colorful grimy brutal salty coming of age story you are likely to read It s the story of Jaffy Brown a nineteenth century boy who comes fully loaded with all that the best urchins have to offer abject poverty a single parent limitless optimism no O Colégio de Todos os Segredos education but natural smarts and a love of the sea Jaffy is part Pip part Popeye part Ishmael part Steve Irwin and thanks to Birch all freshness and charm He s our narrator in Jamrach s so it s good thing you want to spend time with him to root for him Jaffy s life pre Jamrach is all work and the cesspool atmosphere of London slums His one bright light is his Mother She seems barely older than Jaffy at the start of the novel and they are devoted to one another Jaffynters Jamarach s life through the jaws a tiger One of my favorite moments in the book is when Birch describes this magnificent tiger through Jaffy s inexperienced March Violets (Bernie Gunther, eyes Jamrach is an agent of procurement for the wild andxotic that fill wealthyprivate Victorian zoos He is Jaffy s Magwich a mysterious benefactor who puts him on a path out of the slums Through the menagerie business Jaffy gets teamed up with another boy Tim who becomes his friend and rival and Dan Rymer the sailor and adventurer who becomes father and mentor to both boys on the voyage to catch a dragon that is the crux of the novelJaffy s hard knock life thus far takes a turn for the worse after he goes to sea At this point the novel shifts gears a little Jaffy s childhood as difficult as it was still had an innocence to it as he approaches adulthood on board the Lysander the tone of the book becomes harsher adult too The change is subtly done It goes from an almost lightheartedly dangerous Dickensian tale of life on the streets populated with colorful characters to a Joseph Conrad nature verses man while man verses man tale Birch does a magnificent job bringing nineteenth century London and a globe crossing ocean voyage to life The sights the smells the struggle to survive all leap off the page at you What could have been an Zoete tranen endless dirge of sualor gin abuse and near deathxperiences instead become a brilliant tour of lives lived by wit and sheer determination to last just another day These places London slums the deck of the Lysander a deserted island these are not locations that bring out the hopeful dreamer or the rags to riches tale Birch makes these stops the natural progression of Jaffy s life after his singular good luck in finding himself in the tiger s mouthJamrach s Menagerie owes some of it s Water Music events to the real life sinking of the whaling ship The Essex in 1820 which inspired Melville s Moby Dick and inxploits of Charles Jamrach Jamrach was a German born merchant who dealt in wild animals and whose Revived escaped tiger in London carried off a small boy There are other plotlements in the story that I won t detail but will have a vaguely familiar ring to them This is not a criticism Birch s use of a true facts and a few known legends only Student Research Projects in Calculus enhances the feeling of historical accuracy in Jaffy s story She retells these moments within the larger plot with a vivid immediacy that makes Jamarach s a page turner as well as a graduate level course on how to write historical fiction This is one of those books where I really would like to know what the judges for the Man Booker Prize were thinking when they picked it over 100 other contenders to be longlisted for the prize for 2011 That s why I read it Parts of it have promise The story starts with this young boy Jaffy who lives at the verydge of the Thames river described uncomfortably well in a way only rivaled by Stephen King Good but not good It puts you there in a way you would never want to be Jaffy has a run in with a tiger and nds up working for Jamrach s Menagerie thus the title of the book To me these were the interesting bits unfortunately they only took the first uarter of the book or so Then the author sends Jaffy off on a whale ship partly to hunt down a dragon for the menagerie Even this was okay if a bit overdone uest Whaling The adventure of the sea yawn I sense that the Booker judges are craving adventure The hunt for the dragon was interesting but I was starting to lose interest And when view spoilerthe people on the boats start ating Love for Imperfect Things each other to survive I started skimming and flipping through pages hoping for it tond I really think that when you have to resort to cannibalism for shock value you should put down the pen or turn off the computer So did the judges pick this for shock value Any adventure that A Heart of Stone ends in youating your best friend is than a little unnecessary in my book hide spoile. Strike up a friendship Before he knows it Jaffy finds himself on board a ship bound for the South Sea.

This was a really interesting read It starts out almost like a Dickens novel Taking Instruction (Taboo, except colorful Young impoverished boy in Victorian London falls in with wild characters goes on adventurestc But it took a dreadfully dark turn that shocked the hell out of me and left me disturbed for days So be prepared for that this is much than the average coming of age adventure story In retrospect there were hints of a wild dark vein Language and Linguistics earlier in the story I just wasn t prepared for HOW dark the novel was going to go I think my favorite part of the novel was the rocky friendship between Jaffy and Tim simply because it seemed so honest and complicated and not idealized at all Tim is a great character an utter little shit as a child but still charming somehow and complex andnigmatic as a young man He occasionally teases Jaffy but there are other times when he is achingly sweet like the scene in the ship where he holds Jaffy s hand after a bad dream and when he brings up the tiger story to give Jaffy the chance to Divertimento earn the respect of others on the ship Jaffy s feelings for Tim areually complicated he resents his teasing bitterly and is deeply jealous both of Tim s golden beauty and his close bond with his twin sister who Jaffy is in love with in a heady feverous very teenage way but he also seems very attached to and at times proud of Tim Wonderful historical fiction Love Is a Fairy Tale extremely vivid and interesting and filled with great characters but be prepared to follow them into some very dark places I was torn between two and three stars for this Perhaps it is like 25 This book was a chore for me to read I felt disappointed and that it ought to have been so much better Maybe the problem was one of marketing it is called Jamrach s Menagerie and yet the vast bulk of it is about a voyage to find a presumably komodo dragonFor a book with such Dickensian ambition the characters were remarkably lifeless I felt that I should have identified with them and been drawn in Yet I wasn t Parts of the plot were horrible the 65 days adrift after the storm forxample They were also unoriginalI gather the writing has been praised It is true that parts of it were very beautifully written In other places not so much There were inconsistencies too Why would a boy with little schooling who wasn t sure where Peru was know the phrase amniotic fluid Especially when in common parlance they are often referred to as waters In general I thought that this novel had the potential to be much much better As a result I have judged it perhaps harshly than I otherwise might have done Not one to be recommended in my view unfortunately This book was shortlisted for Man Booker Prize this year 2011 It lost to Julian Barnes The Sense of an Ending I am still to read a Barnes but I am sure I will like his works since my brother like his Flaubert s Parrot However I wanted to have some lighter reads Promise at Dawn every December so I picked up this book first I made the right decision this book is light to read yet heavy in its artistryThink of Robert Louis Stevenson s sea adventure masterpiece Treasure Island because a big part of this book is about adolescent boys with grownup men sailing afloat the Atlantic Throw in some survival of the fittest and awakening like Yann Martel s Life of Pi Then there s the uest of finding hunting and bringing home a legend a mythical dragon Opps I have not read a novel about dragon yet How I wish I d read one so I can make this review convincing ha ha But anyway think of a uest like King Arthur s desire for the Holy Grail There I go I read something about that when I was a young boy I have now analogy Sir Galahad was to Jaffy Brown as King Arthur was to Jamrach But the big and very interestinglement of this novel is its Dickensian flavor Jaffy Brown was at the start of the novel a young impoverished boy loitering in the dirty streets of London during the Victorian period Birch s storytelling has that Dickensian touch of comedy innocence and a bit of realism amidst the grime and hopelessness I really liked that part when as a boy Jaffy thought that the stink in his surroundings because he was living near the market was how the world smelled He only realized this when his family transferred to another street I also liked how he fell in love with Ishbel I was almost tempted to say that I thought that the story would have been interesting if Birch gave her character a major part say Ishbel came with the two boys Jaffy and Tim aboard the creaky whaling ship Lysander However on the second thought I guess it would have been too predictable as there are already too many children s and YA books now with a young lady as the main protagonist Twilight has Bella The Hunger Games has Katniss Divergent has Trish The Mortal Instruments has Clarissa We need of those adventure books with young boys in it I say bring back the glory of Robert Louis Stevenson s with his Treasure Island and Kidnapped or Herman Melville with his Moby Dick and Billy Budd Let s have of Percy Jackson Todd Hewitt and Sam TempleSo this is really the reason why I cheer for this book a youngish adventure book with boys ruling over girls It is for children and young adults to njoy and probably ntice them to read where the author drew her inspiration from the classic works of Dickens Stevenson and Melville And who knows probably Birch was also inspired by her contemporaries like Martell Rioldan Ness and GrantI am still to read a Barnes but I say that this book by Birch truly deserves to have been shortlisted in this year s Man Booker I received my copy from Bookhugger s Real Readers programme and the first thing to note is that the cover is absolutely stunning The second thing is that the opening paragraph is one of the most Bangkok Wakes to Rain enticing I havever read Unfortunately after such a promising first impression it falls a little flatIt s definitely an adventure novel but this creates some odd strengths and weaknesses I would disagree with the negative reviews which found it difficult to read It s written in uite a compelling fashion and I never felt the urge to stop reading and pick something The Right Sort of Man (Sparks Bainbridge Mystery else up instead It s veryasy to get through and uite a uick read for its size Where the problem arises however is that it s very much a case of this happens then this happens then this happens which leaves very. Jaffy Brown is running through the London backstreets when he comes face to face with an scaped circu.

Little chance to satifyingly develop the charactersA lot of reviews praise the motion and depth of the novel whereas I found the characters to be uite thin and often struggled or just didn t care who was who on the ship Names and actions often blurred or seemed inconseuential and the major characters seemed rather dull with the Et si la maladie n'tait pas un hasard ? exception of the strong willful Ishbel who unfortunately is absent for most of the book and Jamrach himself of whom we learn very little The others seem mostly like creations forvents to happen to rather than complex functioning human beingsWhere the book does shine though is in its descriptions of places London Den of Shadows (Gamblers Den especially feels very much alive andncapsulates the filth and magic of the city The islands and ocean feel fresh alien and full of wonder Jamrach s yard feels both fantastic and tragic Arguably the places become the characters the people fail to be with lives and mystery beyond the words on the pageDespite my criticisms there s something very Scraps Of The Untainted Sky endearing about this novel Yes it s uite dull yes the characters are underdeveloped but I feel really bad for not liking the book than I did There s something there whether it s the author s underlying skill the appeal of adventure or how close it comes to being good It s a shame it didn t uite fulfill its potential but there snjoyment to be had here and I d definitely consider reading by Carol Birch in the future I found this book at the library sale shelves The cover attracted my attention first and after reading the first paragraph I was hooked I was born twice First in a wooden room that jutted out over the black water of the Thames and then again The Eric Carle Gift Set eight years later in the Highway when the tiger took me in his mouth andverything truly beganHow could I resist finding out what happened nextA word of advice though I did not read the blurb on the book jacket when I bought the book I did not read the GR blurb Huguenot Prophecy and Clandestine Worship in the Eighteenth Century either which I have just discovered uotes the cover blurbxactly The trouble is that blurb is pretty much a condensed version of the book Because I dove in without knowing any of the details given in the blurb I was surprised when dramatic Fashion Design Course events happened and never knew until the verynd how Jaffy s adventure would turn out This made the book dramatic I mean if you Aeralis (The Frost Chronicles, expect this that and the other to happen where is the thrill of reading something for the first time So don t read the blurbs just read the bookBut be prepared for some gruesome passages and lots of detailed descriptions of throwing up It is in many ways a dark and disgusting tale The author recreates the living conditions of the Thames waterfront of the 1800 s in gory detail Before Jaffy meets his tiger he plays in a river that is practically all raw sewage and when he is hired at the Menagerie of the title he loves the animal stench of the place becauseven in its rankness it smells better than the river With this author s help it is not hard to imagine oneself living back in the good old days And being thankful that at least some things are better these daysI was captivated throughout much of the book and I must say the waterspout storm at sea passage was one of the most dramatic I have Alternatives Chapter 2 (The Chronos Files; The Shattered Saga ever read But somehow during the long slog after the storm I lost focus and just wanted thexcruciatingly detailed section that followed to be finished Perhaps I was too intensely there in the story and that is why I wanted out All I know is that I was relieved when the Cincinnati and Other Plays end came but was also disappointed in how it arrived Overall the book had its moments but I don t think I would read by this author The intensity the deep feeling the strong relationships the joys the horrors thexperiences the adventures are all described so wonderfully by the author through the senses of Jaffy Brown in the first person that I shall not Speak Out! even attempt to tell you about them You need to read the book for yourself Short listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2011 I cannot imagine how good theventual winner must ve been in the I Like You the Best eyes of the judges to have beaten Jamarach s MenagerieTowards thend I was beginning to think of alternative titles for the book Jaffy s Oceans or The Long Voyage of Jaffy Brown came to mind but I suppose that the title is appropriate as it all started when The collectors encyclopedia of antique marbles eight year old Jaf Brown stroked the nose of a Bengal tiger which had broken loose from Jemrach s Menagerie and he was carried off by the magnificent beast This incident is based on fact The rest of the story is mostly based on fiction I can t tell you the other fact without ruining the reading for you But I ll tell you about one if thearly The Philosophy of Giambattista Vico events which told me that I was going to love this book On the day following the tiger incident Mr Jamrach sent his boy Tim round to find Jaffy and to buy him a raspberry puff Jaffy had never sampled raspberry or cream or puff pastry in hisight years on Earth The description of his happiness as he Lone Star Standoff enjoys his first bite of this wonderfulxperience is guaranteed to make you Punishment Of The Cheating Wife enjoy it with him How far from his previous life of scraping through the stinking sewers of Bermondsey could be this new joy There he Tim stood with his hands in his pockets and watched meat the raspberry puff The first bite was so bitterly sweet the corners if my mouth ached So beautiful a film of tears stung my More Punishment For His Cheating Wife eyes Then the pain dispersed and there was only delightTimventually becomes Jaffy s very best friend and that friendship has its ups and downs Some of them are very severe I suppose one could argue that Tim s sister Ishbel becomes Jaffy s best friend but I am not about to Decision enter a debate on the matter because it doesn t really matter Be warned that there are some very moving sad parts to this story If you are not careful you couldnd up joining melancholics anonymous before you re finished but you should read it You will not regret it I picked this one to read because it was on the longlist for the Booker Prize I started it when I first took it home from the library but I did not get into it then and thought I wouldn t read it But then I decided to try it again and when I got a little further into it I had not read very much the first time I started to The View from Alameda Island enjoy itJaffy is a young poor boy living in London in the 1850 s At age 9 when a tigerscapes its cage at a local animal store he walks up to. S animal His life is transformed by the ncounter Plucked from the jaws of death by Mr Jamrach the two.

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Carol Birch is the author of eleven previous novels including Turn Again Home which was long listed for the Man Booker Prize and Jamrach’s Menagerie which was a Man Booker Prize finalist and long listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the London Book Award