Philip Womack

Jaffy Abroad

Jamrach’s Menagerie


Canongate 348pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

Carol Birch’s eleventh novel, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, is a rich and strange tale, haunted by fate, the sea, visions, insanity and the apparent cruelty of Providence. Its language is full of invention as it follows the life of little Jaffy Brown, who is ‘born twice’.

The first time is the actual moment when he enters the world, squealing and mewling, to become one of the urchins who scrambles through the sewers of nineteenth-century Bermondsey in search of the merest object of value. The second time is when Jaffy sees a tiger in the street: ‘The Sun himself came down and walked on earth.’ His life has been so limited that he barely knows what a tiger is; believing it to be some sort of cat, he walks up to it to stroke its nose. Fortunately for Jaffy, the tiger has just eaten and its owner, the titular Jamrach, is on hand to rescue him from certain death.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,