4 out of 5
Author: Peter Carey
Olivier-Jean-Baptiste de Clarel de Barfleur de Garmont is a young and idealistic French aristocrat. Born from orthodox aristocratic parents who despise everything about the French revolution, Olivier grew up believing that each human being has his/her place in this world priorly decided.
John Larrit, better known as Parrot or Perroquet is an English valet. Growing up dreaming to become an artist, Parrot had to accept his destiny when fate took him away from the world of artistry to the world of servitude.
Both men must endure each other’s company when Olivier who is just been annointed as one of Paris’ most promising young lawyers must go to America to observe the American prison’s policy. Parrot, against his will, is assigned to assist Lord Migraine as his personal secretary during the journey. Olivier thinks Parrot is way too smart-mouthed for a valet, while Parrot considers Olivier as a snobbish yesterday’s son. Throughout the journey Olivier discovers the wisdom behind Parrot’s bitter experiences and starts to acknowledge the power of free will and equality. Parrot learns the complexity of Olivier and his ideology, that to have a better future and being treated equally, one musts have a strong foundation of culture, politic, and law. They hate to admit it, but they have actually grown to respect each other.
Aside from in-depth character exploration, the book also tells the story on how different Europe and America was. Europe with its long tradition and fixed moral conduit, while America with its flexible and egalitarian approach. For Olivier America seems to embody the cheekiness of the society where people act more than the appropriate necessity. For Parrot America gives him hope and chance he never has in Europe, a place where he can develop without thinking about class and stratification. Both men’s struggles to adapt or to disengage are portrayed marvelously comical in the novel, while we can also learn about the surrounding and the people who complete the puzzle pieces. This novel has been short-listed for The Man Booker Prize 2010 in which just cemented the reputation of Peter Carey.