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


“See up there?” My da pointed, squeezing in. “See that?”

I allowed myself to be pulled in beside my da and Mr. Piggott, who had a tussock of white hair growing out of his wattly ear.

“See that?”

“No,” I said, but I did see: a little metal door inside the chimney.

“Yes, it looks all dark, don’t it, but once inside, young’un, why you’ll find an oil lamp burning. It’s like bloody Christmas.”

“Well, so to speak,” my daddy cautioned.

“Yes, so to speak,” said Mr. Piggott. “In a way of speaking. Not Christmas, of course, but plenty of surprises. You see, young’un,” he said, plucking at my open shirt, “hold your lamp up high, you’ll see there’s a passage tailor-made for you, and even though it goes this way and that, it keeps on going just the same, and you come to a bit of a step which you climb up, and then there is another door. Doesn’t look like a door at all, even when your nose is hard against it, but you give it a good hard knock. You will, I know you will. Because what’s inside but a printer like your father, not so tall or so handsome. Mr. Watkins is his name. And he’s going to give you something.”

“What?” I asked.

“See,” said Mr. Piggott. “It’s not hard.”

“What will he get given?” my father asked.

“Well, it’s a funny thing when you say it, but it’s as regular as your daily bread.”

“What is it?” I asked.

“It’s his chamber pot I suppose,” said Mr. Piggott, “and the printer fellow would be very grateful if you could bring it back out here so we can nicely deal with it.”

I was tremendously relieved to hear all this, and I was ready to set off immediately, but my father was now edging me back out into the room and Mr. Piggott had no choice but follow, although the three of us continued bunched together as if packed into a box.

“How was this job done previous?” my daddy asked.

“We had a lad, of course. It requires no training,” said Mr. Piggott, who must have seen which way my father’s mind was working.

“Ah, there you are,” my daddy said. “Then he’s better than an apprentice.”

“How’s that?” said Piggott.

“No training. Less eaten. Less laundered. Less found,” my father said. “And why was he measured? Well, it’s obvious. It was an act of employment. Speaking legally.”

“A penny,” said Mr. Piggott.

“Threepence each way,” my father said, “and another threepence for each time he’s needed.”

“I could get anyone to do this,” Piggott said. “Threepence in and out this first time. And a penny each way thereafter.”

By now my father had his hair combed up into a big mess and he was scratching at his neck in an attempt to hide his happiness, but I had been there long enough to decide that the previous boy had been Sniffy, and although I allowed my father to lift me to the dark door, the tiny red hairs on my boy arms were standing up on end.

It was a tight fit in there but passing clean, and the so-called passage bent and twisted and arrived at a wall that I did not understand. This was what Mr. Piggott had called a step.

Then I was over this and soon I came to another dead end and, just as my throat was closing up with terror, I knocked. A hidden door swung open. And there it was—the printer’s chamber pot, filled to overflowing, thrust right in my face.

“Take it,” the pressman said.

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: Here I Am
    Here I Am
    by Jonathan Safran Foer
    With almost all the accoutrements of upper middle-class suburban life, Julia and Jacob Bloch fit the...
  • 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 ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

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.