Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch

Jaffy Brown was just a small boy when he came face to face with an escaped tiger on the streets of mid-nineteenth century London. He didn't know enough to be afraid of this very large kitty. He only wanted to stroke its beautiful face. That is how Jaffy briefly spent some time in the mouth of a tiger, and how he ended up working at Jamrach's Menagerie of exotic animals.

As a teen, Jaffy embarks on a whaling ship that has a secondary mission: to capture one of the dragons rumoured to live on an island in the West Indies. It is an eventful trip. British author Carol Birch tells the tale in Jaffy's voice, looking back with the wisdom of years, sitting in the aviary he created.

"You should hear my nightingales. Here in the seedy depths of a Rathcliffe Highway night, they carol like angels. There are no words for that high sweetness. They carol to me that all shall be well and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well (Jaffy Brown, see, became quite well read), yet I know the tiger's mouth awaits. Come what may, whatever we may say, the tiger's mouth awaits. Every little second is the last chance to savour the time that remains. How I swam here to this rock I'll never know. A canary lands before me on a cherry branch, a jonquil, pure deep yellow."

Jamrach's Menagerie is an adventure story, a survival story, and an exploration of friendship, grief and survival. I loved it.

Readalike: The Life of Pi by Yann Martel.


alexis said...

Me too.

Lindy said...

It seems that this book hasn't had too much attention in these parts, so I'm glad to hear from another local reader who enjoyed it. Have you read any of Birch's earlier novels?