From the two-time Booker Prize-winning author: an irrepressible, audacious, trenchantly funny new novel set in the 19th century and inspired in part by the life of Alexis de Tocqueville.
With dazzling exuberance and all the richness of characterization, story, and language that we have come to expect from this superlative writer, Peter Carey explores the birth of democracy, the limits of friendship and whether people really can remake themselves in a New World.
The two men at the heart of the novel couldn't be any more different: Olivier is the son of French aristocrats who (barely) survived the French Revolution. Parrot is the motherless son of an itinerate English printer. But when young Parrot is separated from his father (after a stupendous conflagration at a house of forgery) he runs into the powerful embrace of a one-armed marquis who will be his conduit - like it or not - into a life as closely (mis)allied with Olivier's as if they were connected by blood. And when Olivier sets sail for America - ostensibly to make a study of the American penal system, but more precisely to save his neck from the latest guillotineurs - Parrot, unable to loosen the Marquis's grip, is there too: as spy, scribe, comptroller, protector, foe and foil.
As the narrative unfurls, shifting between the perspectives of Olivier and Parrot, between their picaresque adventures apart and together, in love and politics, prisons and finance, homelands and brave new lands - a most unlikely friendship begins to take hold.
From the Hardcover edition.