Jamrach's Menagerie - Carol Birch
Jaffy Brown is living a life of squalor on the streets of nineteenth century London, when a close a close encounter with a tiger changes his life forever. The tiger belongs to Mr. Jamrach, an exotic animal trader, who offers young Jaffy a job caring with his animals. It is at jamrach’s that Jaffy meets his rival and best friend, Tim Linver.

When an associate of Jamrach’s plans a voyage to capture an exotic “dragon,” Jaffy jumps at the opportunity. Although enchanted at first with life on board a whaling ship, Jaffy finds himself homesick even before the crew reaches the island of the dragon. When the ship encounters a disaster, Jaffy, Tim, and their shipmates must face a horrifying fight to survive on the open ocean.

Jamrachs’ Menagerie can be considered a story in multiple parts. The first part of the novel deals with Jaffy’s childhood in London, while the second part is an adventure story aboard the whaling ship. The third part of the novel is an often horrific and gruesome tale of survival at sea.

It took a little while to get used to Jaffy’s voice at the beginning. The writing is partly stream-of-consciousness, which is really effective in the later parts of the novel. Jaffy’s hunger and mindset while adrift comes across very strongly through the text. Some of Jaffy’s shipmates are underdeveloped anf hard to keep track of, and some of the survival scenes can be rather gruesome. However, Jamrach’s Menagerie is very well written and is overall an excellent read.

A review copy was provided by the publisher.