Olivier is an aristocrat, one of an endangered species born in France just after the Revolution. Parrot, the son of an itinerant English printer and twice Olivier’s age, always wanted to be an artist but has ended up a servant. Starting on different sides of history, their lives will be permanently joined by an enigmatic, one-armed Marquis.
When Olivier sets sail for the New World — ostensibly to study its prisons, but in reality to avoid yet another revolution — Parrot is sent with him, as spy, protector, foe and foil.
As the narrative shifts between the perspectives of Parrot and Olivier, 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. And with their story, Peter Carey explores the adventure of American democracy — in theory, in practice, and in ongoing argument.
Parrot and Olivier in America is a dazzlingly inventive reimagining of Alexis de Tocqueville’s famous journey, brilliantly evoking the Old World colliding with the New. Above all, it is a wildly funny and deeply tender portrait of two men who come to form an almost impossible friendship, and a completely improbable work of art.