Tag Archives: Carol Birch

A very disturbing book – Jamrach´s Menagerie – Carol Birch

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?

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Christmas Reading or I got so many books that I might have to consider a Kindle

I had a big wishlist of books for Christmas and got practically all of them so my suitcase was overweight on the way back to Spain.  So here is my reading list for the next couple of months.

Alison Weir – Eleanor of Aquitaine, and Lancaster and York

Jonathan Franzen – Freedom

Carol Birch – Jamrach´s Menagerie (not liking this much so far)

John Hooper – The New Spanairds

Desmond Morris – Catwatching (didn’t request this, it was a charity shop find, thanks Joe, it was one my best reads)

John Crace – The Digested Read and Brideshead Digested

Iris Murdoch – The Sea, The Sea

Simon Schama – A History of Britain volume I

James Lee Milne – Diaries, 1942-54

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