The Parrots by Filippo Bologna

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The Parrots by Filippo Bologna

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Category: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: C E Stanway
Reviewed by C E Stanway
Summary: The Parrots is searing satire of the literary world as three writers compete for The Prize, a coveted award.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: July 2013
Publisher: Pushkin Press
ISBN: 978-1908968197

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When confronted with the topic of parrots, most people would describe them as tamed tropical birds that are taught to repeat simple phrases, having no particular intelligence to engender an originality of their own. Filippo Bologna has not in fact written a book about birds, but about writers - in fact, three writers. Just as the Neo-Pagans have a liking of the Triple Goddesses of The Maiden, The Mother and The Crone, our three writers are similarly split into The Beginner, The Writer, and The Master. All three of these novelists are battling it out for The Prize, a prestigious award that would revitalise the career of The Master, legitimize the efforts of The Beginner and assure The Writer a place in the annals of history. The setting of Rome is utilised to provide both a stunning backdrop and one that is sympathetic to the mood of our characters. The stories of our three protagonists are interwoven in a delightfully clear fashion; Bologna's prose is delicate and descriptive, but not at the sacrifice of pacing. The stage is set; the characters have learned their lines. There is just one problem... out of the three writers, none of them deserves to win The Prize.

When I read the blurb provided for this novel, I was under the impression it would have a streak of magical realism, as the idea of a parrot handing out writing tips to contestants of The Prize sounds just absurd enough to work. While a hyper-critical parrot did feature in the novel, magical realism wasn't as deeply entrenched in the novel as I was expecting. If I had to choose an adjective to describe The Parrots, it would be satirical. In the absurd run-up to The Ceremony, none of our three protagonists comes away unscathed. Neither do their publishers or press agents, though their families are given a gentler treatment. The Parrots is a book that bites the hand that feeds, but is one that is refreshing in its brutality.

As I enjoyed the novel so much, it's not without faults. First of all, the concept of a book about writing is self-indulgent, and unfortunately Bologna has not reserved any satire for himself. A self-deprecating attitude could have made The Parrots slightly more accessible and light-hearted. After all, though ostensibly a comedy, the novel deals with such dark topics as death and infidelity. Secondly I was impressed with the feel and design of the book, down to the gold foil lettering on the dust-jacket. The cover reflects the pomp and circumstance of The Ceremony within the book aptly. Likewise, the font is readable, and the text is not too packed in. It's actually in the editing where the book trips up. Once or twice I came across errors such as damming instead of damning, and incorrect grammar. It's a shame such small errors detract from the prose.

Overall, despite some errors I found The Parrots an enjoyable read that pokes fun at the industry that produced it. Recommended.

For another Master, you might enjoy:

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

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Buy The Parrots by Filippo Bologna at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Parrots by Filippo Bologna at


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