Jamrach’s Menagerie

Jamrach’s Menagerie
by Carol Birch
2011 – 304 pages

That’s what this book starts out as.  And then it turns into a Moby Dick kind of tale with its own version of the whale hunt and other exciting adventures.  A bit like “In the Heart of the Sea” by Nathanial Philbrick which is the non-fiction story of the whale ship Essex.

The best thing about this book is the story-telling.  It’s a great yarn.  But it’s also very well told so there are points for that.  And it’s a bit based on history,  non-fiction and literary,  but without overdoing it, so that’s a few points.   It won a slot on the short-list for the Booker.

Jamrach is the owner of a side-show menagerie south of London.  He hires the young Jaffy Brown, who has shown promise by petting an escaped tiger on the nose, to go on a sea-voyage to collect odd animals  –  a Komodo dragon to be exact.  The story is Jaffy’s,  not Jamrach’s.

Yet it’s not a “great” book and I didn’t “love” it.   I think 8.5 is “almost great.”


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