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Editorial Reviews

The beginning of the 19th century was a tumultuous and unstable time for French politics. By 1830, the once thriving monarchy had endured multiple rounds of rebellion marked by terror, political unrest, and macabre guillotine executions. As a child of the aristocracy, Olivier de Garmont is in danger. He travels to the nascent United States of America with an English servant named Parrot to study the American penal system — and to escape the inevitable threat to his survival amid revolutionary France. Parrot and Olivier in America is narrated by Humphrey Bower, who voices both travelers in a dual narrative, equally satisfying both Olivier’s flowery French accent and Parrot’s brawny English one.
in Parrot and Olivier in America, we are able to see what the United States was like in its first 50 years though the eyes of the two protagonists. Theirs is an unlikely partnership: Parrot is a struggling printer approaching his fifties, while Olivier is an Old World aristocrat — a proponent of the system of hierarchy that likely placed Parrot in his current position of poverty. But in the New World, the two find a common ground as they discover the unfamiliar America with impressionable eyes. Bower brings a genuine sense of wonder and curiosity to both visitors, while also contributing to their unique characterizations through tone, inflection, and emotion. While Parrot and Olivier are both discovering America for the first time, their experiences and reactions are quite different.
Parrot and Olivier in America is a breathtaking study of democracy and politics through two unfamiliar perspectives. in Olivier, Peter Carey has developed a fictional character based on Alexis de Tocqueville, 19th-century French political scientist and author of Democracy in America. For those familiar with Tocqueville, Parrot and Olivier in America is a captivating representation of what his travels might have been like. For everyone else, it is an absorbing character study of an unusual pairing as they come to terms with the New World and with one another. —Suzanne Day
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Publisher's Summary

Olivier, an improvisation on the life of Alexis de Tocqueville, is the traumatized child of aristocratic survivors of the French Revolution. Parrot is the motherless son of an itinerant English printer. Born on different sides of history, their lives will be joined by an enigmatic one-armed marquis.
When Olivier sets sail for the nascent United States, ostensibly to make a study of the penal system but more precisely to save his neck from one more revolution, Parrot will be there, too, as spy for the marquis and as protector, foe, and foil for Olivier.
As the narrative shifts between Parrot and Olivier—their adventures in love and politics, prisons and finance, homelands and brave new lands—a most unlikely friendship begins to take hold. And with their story, Peter Carey explores the adventure of American democracy with dazzling inventiveness.
©2010 Peter Carey (P)2009 Bolinda Publishing Proprietary Liimited; 2010 by Blackstone Audio, Inc.
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Critic Reviews

"Remarkably fluent in history, Carey is not beholden to his sources but, rather, empowered to create a thrillingly fresh and incisive drama of extraordinary personalities set during a time of world-altering vision and action." (Booklist)
"Richly atmospheric, this wonderful novel is picaresque and Dickensian, with humor and insight injected into an accurately rendered period of French and American history." (Publishers Weekly)
“Peter Carey is still the master.” (Washington Post Book Review)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By TX lilbit on 01-15-11

Like nothing else

This is a great book to turn to when you feel as if no-one is telling original stories anymore. It will remind you that great writers can recognize compelling stories (with compelling characters, situations, dialogue) everywhere. The narrator is absolutely brilliant as well, and he makes the characters live - especially impressive given that the two main characters could not be more different.

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Ryan on 07-10-11

Laudable writing, story could be more involving

I've never read the work of Alexis de Tocqueville, the 18th century French writer upon whom Carey based the character Olivier, so I can't really comment on this book from that angle. It seems, though, that Carey didn't intend to retread an already-written account of a young nation, but to write a character study. Thus we get Olivier, a haughty, melancholy young French aristocrat still haunted by the ghosts of his country's revolution, and his counterpoint, Parrot, a hard-traveled Englishman who acts as Olivier's not-entirely-willing manservant.

Both are outsiders to America, seeing different things in it. For Olivier, it's a barbaric, uncultured society, driven mainly by a desire for profit. "What if they blindly follow what their newspapers tell them and elect some rube for President?" he asks. Parrot is somewhat more optimistic, seeing the chance for a fresh beginning for himself. The question for the modern reader is, of course, implicit. Will this be a country whose glory blossoms briefly, then ends in George W. Bush and worse? Or are we idealizing an imperfect past and failing to see that America remains a place of opportunity, in spite of its many faults? Carey leaves this question to us.

In terms of writing and voice, Parrot and Olivier is an impeccable novel. I really enjoyed the historical flavor, and can't fault Carey for research and style. A section in which the two men, who don't like each very much, must endure close quarters while crossing the Atlantic, getting to know their new American neighbors in the process, is quite witty. However, the book overall didn't quite live up to my hopes. Carey spends a lot of time defining his characters' separate lives and histories without doing that much with them. I felt like the novel spent so many pages on trips back to the old world, which aren't that crucial to the plot, that it didn't say enough about the new world, or give the two men enough time together.

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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