In this vivid and visceral work of historical fiction, two-time Booker Prize winner Peter Carey imagines the experiences of Alexis de Tocqueville, the great French political philosopher and author of Democracy in America. Carey brings de Tocqueville to life through the fictionalized character of Olivier de Garmont, a coddled and conceited French aristocrat. Olivier can only begin to grasp how the other half lives when forced to travel to the New World with John “Parrot” Larrit, a jaded survivor of lifelong hardship who can’t stand his young master who he is expected to spy on for the overprotective Maman Garmont back in Paris. Parrot and Olivier are a mid-nineteenth-century Oscar and Felix who represent the highest and lowest social registers of the Old World, yet find themselves unexpectedly pushed together in the New World. This odd couple’s stark differences in class and background, outlook and attitude-which are explored in alternating chapters narrated by each-are an ingenious conceit for presenting to contemporary readers the unique social experiment that was democracy in the early years of America.