Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch

Jamrach's Menagerie

Carol Birch

We are initially thrown into the murky world of the squalor of Dickensian London complete with outsize characters and even a scruffy young boy, Jaffy, as the star of the story. But before long though we embark on an exciting adventure on the high seas hunting whales and capturing a 'dragon' to be shipped to London. Abruptly though the pace changes as things don't go to plan and in the darkening mood we fear for the life of our hero.

It was then I truly realised the whale is no more a fish than I am. So much blood. This was not like the fish on the quay, fresh caught, lying flipping and flopping, death on a simmer. This was a fierce boiling death. She died thrashing blindly in a slick of gore, full of pain and fury, gnashing her jaws, beating her tail, spewing lumps of slime and half-digested fish that fell stinking about us. It was vile. So much strength dies slowly. We watched in awe, wordless. Ten minutes, fifteen, more. As she thrashed, she swam around in an ever dwindling gyre, and I begged her to die.
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