Excerpt from Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Parrot and Olivier in America

by Peter Carey

Parrot and Olivier in America
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2010, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2011, 400 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


My face and neck burned bright red while I stood in front of all these men and Mrs. Piggott, with no word of explanation, having completely ignored my racehorse, measured me, not only my height but around my chest, from armpit to extremity.

“Ah, ain’t that lovely?” said my da who would say anything to get a nice hot feed. “See that Parrot—you are to be measured. What a treat,” he said to Mr. Piggott.

Mrs. Piggott slipped her tape measure into the pocket of her pinny. Mr. Piggott thumped his fist twice against the ceiling, which was even more alarming than the butting. At this signal each printer bowed his atheistic head.

Benedictus benedicat per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum.” Then, moving from Latin to English without a cough, Mr. Piggott formally employed my father, passing down to him, from hand to hand, a copy of Miss Parsons’ The Castle of Wolfenbach which, just published in London for ten shillings, he would soon have on the roads at six shillings and sixpence.

My father said, “Good-oh,” and did not seem to worry about what might happen to me on account of the measuring. My racehorse was left with all the bread crumbs. I never had so little praise before.

Even when we went out after dinner my dad said not a word about what had happened. Instead he lit his pipe and told me this was certainly the River Dart. It was a place where cattle crossed, so the bank was bad smelling from their droppings mixed with earth. “Lovely night,” my father said, turning with one arm behind his back to survey the printery which occupied what might have once been a grand house but had long been encroached upon by woods, tangled in wild creeper, guarded by thistles on the riverbank, surrounded by carts and wheels in such a style you would think it the graveyard for old carriages.

Piggott’s was what was called a black house, not because of the grimy slate tiles that wrapped themselves around the soft contours of the roof, but on account of printing what was on the cross. To make this cheap edition of The Castle of Wolfenbach was an offense against the crown.

Soon Mrs. Piggott gave us each a bundle of bed linen and when my father paid her a florin, she silently showed him to a bed by the dormitory door. Me she led to the far end and left me in what was once a kind of scullery. My da said it was a fine accommodation but this was like him, to become most enthusiastic when most oppressed by life. He showed me how I could lie in bed and watch the cattle go home for milking. His bright eyes were a fright to see.

On this first night, I was sitting on my bed, wondering if I dare walk outside to do my business, when something attacked my shoulder, I thought a bird or bat but discovered a pile of quarto proofs wrapped in string.

My da was always at me with a book and I was not displeased. When I had unwrapped the bundle I was excited to find engravings for a picture book. Alas, these were depictions of human congress too disturbing for a child. I could chop the head off a king, but I was not strong enough for this.

I never told my father what I had seen, or why I abandoned my own place and walked the length of the dormitory in my nightshirt and squeezed into his narrow crib.

“Oh this is a grand place,” he said, and I agreed it was and got ready to protect myself from his nightmares and his bruising knees.

ii

That first morning our bathing in the river provided amusement for the printers whose yawning faces appeared in a line of windows like noggins at a fair. One of them asked us were we mermaids—it was not what he said, but he was a Londoner with all his lovely London sounds, and I did adore the voices of mankind.

Excerpted from Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey. Copyright © 2010 by Peter Carey. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...
  • Book Jacket: A Gentleman in Moscow
    A Gentleman in Moscow
    by Amor Towles
    It is June 21, 1922, and 33-year-old Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is convicted of being a class ...

First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Under the Udala Trees
by Chinelo Okparanta

Raw, emotionally intelligent and unflinchingly honest--a triumph.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.