"With our protagonists no longer on the run, it finally becomes apparent what this novel is really about. It is a love letter to nature, and to the Australian wilderness in particular. Through the characters of this boy and woman, both cosseted urbanites who find themselves forced to live against their will in a tough, back-to-the-soil community, both of whom slowly and reluctantly come to terms with their changed circumstances, Carey pays moving homage to the kind of "hippy" lifestyle that is more commonly given comic or dismissive treatment." William Sutcliffe
Peter Carey has written a novel that is difficult to interpret. While engrossed in the reading, I kept thinking "Is this all there is"? Something is missing here. And, I never found that something. The writing is pure prose, brilliant, sweet and uplifting and coarse and gritty. The story centers around Che, or Jay as his grandmother calls him, Selnick. A seven year old living with his grandmiother in the glass windows of New York. They have money and security, but the boy is cut off from the world. He cannot watch television. He is told by a next door neighbor that his mother and father are radicals from Harvard, part of the SDS movement and on the lam. Grandmother won't mention them. Che is left with a vision, long lost of his father. On one fine day, the front door opens and a woman called 'Dial' comes into his life, and off they go to adventure. His world has opened. First on the subway and then to Philadelphia and it is there that Dial discovers that Che's mother has blown herself up attepting to make a bomb. Plans change, a trip to the west coast and then they are sent to Australia.
Along the way we learn that Dial was a babysitter for Che when his mom was at Harvard. Dial has left her job as assistant professor at Vassar to help her old friends. Why? Che thinks of Dial as his mother and as time moves on that is what she becomes. She is a little naive- not understanding what Australia is about or what life outside of the US is all about. And, why Australia, wouldn't Canada seem more logical? Life in Australia in a commune is the life that Che grows up with. Some communication is made to grandmother via a lawyer who is sent to NYC to make things ok again. Time heals all wounds, we are told. Really? We are looking for the timebomb and all along the real hero is Che. Che taken willingly from what he knows with grandmother, to a new world on the other side of the ocean. He absorbs all of this and the new culture he finds he is ready, able and willing. He has struggled to make sense of this new world and it is his.
"Carey's emotional choreography isn't sure-footed enough to make Che's story live up to its dramatic opening. As you'd expect, he does a good job of creating a lively - and carefully Americanised - idiom for his central characters. And having lived in one himself, he clearly knows a lot about alternative communities in Queensland. Yet, coming as it does on the heels of such books as True History of the Kelly Gang, the new novel seems badly paced and weirdly dull. Carey is a formidable writer, and this isn't a complete disaster by any means, but it's hard not to see it getting filed under "occasional misfires". Christopher Taylor
What is this story all about? The 1970's and radicalism is but a part of the plot that entices. The trip to Australia and the story told from Che's point of view, and then from Dials viewpoint intercept and the real story is left with Che. The writing of Peter Carey is the best there is, the writing of a master.
Recommended. prisrob 03-01-08
My Life as a Fake