Friday, 13 January 2012

Book Review: Jamrach's Menagerie - Carol Birch

Synopsis - 1857.  Jaffy Brown is running along a street in London's East End when he comes face to face with an escaped circus animal.  Plucked from the jaws of death by Mr Jamrach - explorer, entrepreneur and collector of the world's strangest creatures - the two strike up a friendship.

Before he knows it, Jaffy finds himself on board a ship bound for the Dutch East Indies, on an unusual commission for Mr Jamrach.  His journey - if he survives it - will push faith, love and friendship to their utmost limits.

Review - This book is another library book which I offered as a choice for my new book group.  It did not win the choice but I decided to read it as I had borrowed it.

In the acknowledgements at the back of the novel, the author informs us that the character Jamrach did exist in real life.  There was a Bengal tiger which escaped whilst being delivered to Jamrach which did carry off an eight year old boy in its mouth, the boy escaped unhurt, thanks to Jamrach.  Also, Essex, a whaleship sank in the early 19th century and there is a story that a lad shot his childhood friend after drawing lots.  However, this book is a work of fiction.

On commencing reading the novel, I thought this is great, very good, something different.  Well written with a great storyline, well rounded characterisations.  I even liked Tim who taunted and teased Jaffy no end.  The first part of the book rolled along nicely.  It was the story at sea when a handful of sailors survived in two boats after escaping from the sinking Lysander that palled.  This part of the story dragged on a bit too long and I did get bored to the point of speed reading or skimming on to the next part.  However, it redeemed itself in the end.  3*

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