I first heard about this book when they were interviewing the author and AS Byatt on Radio 4´s Open Book. Byatt said she liked the book, now I don´t know if she was lying because Carol Birch was there but I hated it and found it really disturbing. Never has a book cover description and the accompanying review quotes misrepresented a book so much. I would challenge the Daily Mail´s `Magical´ adjective with `disgusting´or something like that.
Jaffy Brown lives in the Victorian slums of London and one day at the age of eight he finds himself being rescued from the mouth of a tiger by Jamrach. Jamrach (a real character) owns a menagerie and Jaffy begins working for him looking after the animals. As he grows older he decides to join a whale ship on an expedition to the Indian Ocean looking for a dragon (actually a giant lizard, like a crocodile). From this point things start going wrong.
The book´s description of the killing of a whale was upsetting enough but as it goes on there is horrific cannibalism. Now I know historically these things have happened in times of great hardship and this is actually strangely enough inspired by true stories, but I like to have a bit of warning that I won´t be able to sleep after reading a book. I suppose to be positive you could say her descriptions of the sailors decline and actions were so realistic that it made it unreadable, however, I found myself skimming towards the end to avoid gory descriptions and actually I was a little bit bored.
Parts of this book were interesting such as the journey to the various islands, and maybe I have got it completely wrong but I really found this a bit dull. How did it get shortlisted for the Booker?