There is not a page from which I could not provide a delightful turn of phrase or description or conversation or all three. Every page was a delight to read, so much so that this is going on my brilliant-voices-and-language shelf.
It is my idea of ideal historical fiction: an imaginative and digressive exploration of the humanity behind the events, by way of metaphor, paradox, farce, foibles, and much empathy. And as such it ranks right up there with other "brilliants" like "Measuring the World," "Alias Grace," "Little Big Man" and "Slaughterhouse Five."
As has been noted many times, the life of Olivier (a.k.a. Lord Migraine)is inspired by Alexis de Tocqueville and the writing of "Democracy in America." Olivier and his English servant and scribe, called Parrot, take turns narrating, each voice being so distinct that I never had to wonder whose chapter I was reading. The colorful supporting cast of family, friends, foes and lovers is worthy of Dickens.
As the front flap notes: "With their story, Peter Carey explores the experiment of American democracy with dazzling inventiveness, and with all the richness and surprise of characterization, imagery, and language that we have come to expect from this superlative writer."
Indeed. I can't believe I am just discovering him. "Oscar and Lucinda" is next on my list.