Customer Reviews for

Jamrach's Menagerie

Average Rating 3.5
( 8 )
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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 20, 2013

    Great story

    Lyrical and heartbreaking. May be my #2 of last year. Grumpy, dissatisfied peolpe should read this so they'll realize what ungrateful, cynical a-holes they are.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2013

    Horrible, don't waste your time!

    Had great potential, took a turn for the worst in the second half when the author decided to give the chatacters on the ship a colorful vocabulary that didn't even exist in the time period the author was writing in. So sad to see another author throw away talent!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 4, 2011

    What A Wonderful Read

    "Jamrach's Menagerie" is a must read for anyone that loves to be taken away on an adventure that spans 50-years of an English boy's life in the early 20th century. In a word, a masterpiece!

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  • Posted October 20, 2011


    Though this topic is not my usual choice, the writing is so crisp, so beautiful that it held me, hypnotic. If you want to see a master of our language at work, read Jamrach's Menagerie. It won't disappoint.

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  • Posted June 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Compelling Read

    Jaffy Brown meets Mr. Jamrach as a young street urchin in London. Mr. Jamrach is a wild-animal importer, supplying zoos and private collectors. A tiger escapes and Jaffy, entranced, walks up to him and strokes his nose, no fear evident. Mr. Jamrach recognizes that Jaffy has an affinity for caring for animals and hires him to help in his establishment. Jaffy loves his new job and soon has a best friend, Tim. Tim is another boy in the yard and alternately the best friend and a cruel enemy to Jaffy. Tim has a twin sister, Ishbel, and Jaffy is friends with her also, and feels the start of adult feelings towards her.

    As Jaffy grows, he and Tim want more adventure. They find it when word reaches one of Mr. Jamrach's collectors that a real dragon has been spotted. He funds an expedition on a whaling ship to hunt the dragon and capture it to become the centerpiece of the collector's private zoo. Full of excitement, Jaffy jumps at the chance.

    Life as a sailor and on a whaling boat is new to Jaffy, but he soon settles in. The work is hard, but he has known nothing more. Birch gives great insight into what a whale hunt was like in those days, the breaching of the whale, men taking to the sea in small boats to defeat these gigantic creatures who could kill them with a swish of their tails, the brutal killing and work of extracting the oil.

    After weeks of whale hunting, the boat approaches the remote island where the dragon has been spotted. The Jamrach expedition sallies forth and manages to capture the mystical beast. Loading it back on the ship, they cast off to make their fortune back in London. But the beast brings bad luck and the boat sinks, leaving a few survivors to try to make their way back to their former lives.

    Carol Birch's book has been longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction for 2011, and it is evident why it was selected. Her forte is description, and she effortlessly transports the reader to another time and place. The reader feels what it must have been like to grow up poor in London, to fight the large beasts of the ocean, and to be shipwrecked. She explores the nature of friendship, and what men will do to survive. The reader cannot put the book down, drawn to find out what happens to Jaffy and his comrades. This book is recommended for all readers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 17, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2012

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