Book: Peter Carey - Parrot and Olivier in America

Olivier is a French aristocrat whose family ships him off to the New World, as the United States was then known, ostensibly to study its prisons but in reality to save his neck from the Revolution’s guillotine.

They arrange for an English printer named Parrot to accompany him to look out for the son they dote on, and the two – from very different sides of the social spectrum – form an uneasy and often fractious travelling partnership.

The story shifts between Parrot and Olivier as they observe the birth of a new country that seems to stumble from one crisis to another and their observations are often hilarious.

Carey is a two-time Booker prize-winning author who used the real-life travels of Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville, author of the classic Democracy in America, as the basis for this witty recreation of a historical adventure.

If that’s sounds stuffy and highbrow it isn’t. It’s wonderful, wacky fun. Fans should not miss this riveting read.

Parrot and Olivier in America by Peter Carey

Faber and Faber, R181,30

Rating: 4/5