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Lancaster's Carol Birch on Booker Shortlist

Chris Satori

Our heartiest congratulations to popular Lancastrian author Carol Birch, who has had her latest novel, 'Jamrach's Menagerie' shortlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize (see full shortlist here)

And the other good news is that Carol is booked to appear at this year's Lancaster LitFest on Wednesday 19th October at 7.30pm at the Storey, Lancaster. Appearing alongside Carol will be fellow Lancaster author Jo Baker, whose latest novel is The Picture Book. This is part of a strong festival of events of which more below.

Manchester born Carol Birch is no stranger to awards. She won the 1988 David Higham Award for the Best First Novel of the Year for Life in the Palace, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize with The Fog Line in 1991, and she was long-listed for the 2003 ManBooker Prize for Turn Again Home. Jamrach's Menagerie, her 11th novel to date, was also long-listed for the Orange Prize 2011 and is on the Richard and Judy Book Club Autumn reading list.

Jamrach’s Menagerie is a mid-19th century seaman’s yarn depicting the voyage from youth to maturity of one Jaffy Brown: an otherwise insignificant boy from London’s East End.

Fate pounces on Jaffy in the shape of a tiger, on the loose from Jamrach’s Menagerie of exotic creatures. In his own words,
"I was born twice. First in a wooden room that jutted out over the black water of the Thames, and then again eight years later in the Highway, when the tiger took me in his mouth and everything truly began."
Plucked from the jaws of death by Mr Jamrach – explorer, entrepreneur and collector of the world’s strangest creatures – the two strike up a friendship and Jaffy finds himself embarking upon an eastern expedition with one of Jamrach’s chief suppliers, Dan Rymer, along with his friend Tim and the miscellaneous crew of the Lysander, a whaling ship.

Joe Downes reviewed this gripping story for Virtual-Lancaster in June, writing:

"Birch’s power is undeniable when pitched at the dark extremes of a personal or shared crisis. Her simple imagery is piercing, the protagonist’s introspections poignant, and accounts slurred by drunkenness and delirium touch upon the masterful. The final run of the voyage is particularly moving. The narrative slips into a vital and sinister vein, and with each paragraph’s ebb and flow Birch is firmly established at the oarlocks and adeptly rows."

You can read the full review by Joe Downes here.

Tickets to see Carol Birch and Jo Baker at LitFest are just £7.50/£6 concessions from The Storey, Lancaster, Box Office Tel: 01524 582394
Or you can buy tickets online at

See also: LitFest 2011 line-up announced, Jon Ronson to headline
for a full preview of the superb and diverse line-up appearing at this year's LitFest.
You can download the full programme as a PDF here.