- Audio Download
- Listening Length: 13 hours and 3 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Whole Story Audiobooks
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 7 Sept. 2011
- Language: English
- ASIN: B005LVYQN0
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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Jamrach's Menagerie Audiobook – Unabridged
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Top customer reviews
Jamrach's Menagerie is packed with colour and atmosphere, and the streets of Victorian Wapping and their docks full of ships bringing exotic people and goods from distant lands are vividly realised, as is the menagerie itself and the sad, captive beasts that live there. It's a little disappointing, then, when it becomes clear that this only forms the setting for a small portion of the book and much of the scene-setting seems infuriatingly redundant when we leap forward to Jaffy's mid-teens and life at sea.
That's not to say that the parts of the novel set at sea aren't just as richly described - so richly described, in fact, that it's worth pointing out that this isn't a novel for the squeamish; it's viscerally gruesome in places. It's more just that I found myself feeling slightly duped and the sudden shift in setting does feel a little jarring, a little disjointed. The novel does have the feel, at times, of a series of set-pieces rather than a coherent whole.
It's difficult to write about the most powerful section of the novel, in which disaster strikes the crew of Jaffy's ship and a number of the sailors find themselves adrift in two of the ship's whaling boats with a limited ration of food and water, without giving away an enormous plot spoiler. Suffice it to say that this section of the book is gripping, shocking and at times disturbing, and, brilliantly written though it is, has a stifling sense of claustrophobia about it as, ravaged by hunger and thirst, the crew endure day after banal, dragging day of suffering. When Jaffy finally returns home to London, effectively already a broken man in his late teens, it's hard not to feel that the final section of the book is somewhat anticlimactic - albeit also touching and convincing.
Jamrach's Menagerie is a book I'm glad I've read. I was captivated by the characters, all of whom have their own degree of depth and complexity, the settings and Carol Birch's dazzling prose - there are parts of this book that truly are stunning. But I still haven't quite decided whether, as a whole, it exceeds the sum of its parts.
Jaffy Brown a poor east end kid, makes good, has some amazing and horrifying experiences at sea, then eventually settles down in London.
Good portrayal of 19th century London life with recognisable elements from Scapegallows but all in all, not as gripping as that story.
I think 3 stars is fair.
Like the best Victorian novels it follows a boy's life through to old age, and on the way recounts the most extraordinary voyage. After his encounter with the tiger, our hero Jaffy takes on work for its owner, Mr Jamrach - traveller, menagerie-owner and purveyor of the world's strangest creatures. This work soon involves a commission to procure a creature for Jamrach that may or may not exist, a so-called sea dragon that is recorded as living in the Indian Ocean. So Jaffy's voyage begins, and seems to be going very well. But then fate's winds blow in another direction.
It has all the verbal energy of The Ryme of the Ancient Mariner, with the storytelling nous of Joseph O'Connor. Like a great David Attenborough film it takes you right up close to nature, whether the whiskers of Bengal tiger, the spout of a whale or the snapping jaws of a komodo dragon. But best of all it explores the wildness within our own species and asks what circumstances might see that laid bare.
A stunning piece of fiction from a writer at the top of her game. I must read more Birch.
This novel is the story of Jaffy Brown, a sailor and naturalist in Victorian London. A number of exciting incidents including shipwreck, attack by wild animals and whaling are described in an involving and detailed first person narration.
Despite being packed with incident, the story is slow paced. Even the earliest parts of the book, describing Jaffy's childhood are unhurried, the ship-board passages are almost static. The characters themselves draw the reader's attention to this : "Skip..said..."We've gone into dragon time."...It was true, something had changed, as if we'd sailed into a different air."(p179)
This slow development only makes the eventual crisis more shocking.
The fictional search for Komodo Dragons, quite plausible, is fascinating. It makes an interesting contrast with David Attenborough's real life account of his search for the Dragons, a short 100 years or so later. Strange to think that Jaffy's Dragon could well have survived, ancient and huge, to see Attenborough and his film crew.
"Jamrach's Menagerie" is a well written and invoving book, although readers should be aware it is, inevitably, a difficult and grisly read at times. The short afterword describing which elements of the story are based on real life incidents is surprising.