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Jack Maggs Paperback – 8 Jun 1998

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Product details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; New edition edition (8 Jun 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571193773
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571193776
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 387,136 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon Review

As a novelist, Peter Carey is hardly a stranger to the 19th century: his Oscar and Lucinda was a veritable treasure-trove of Victoriana. In this novel, however, Carey has set himself an even more complicated task--reinterpreting not only a vanished era but one of that era's masterpieces. Jack Maggs is a variation on Great Expectations, in which Dickens's tale is told from the viewpoint of Australian convict Abel Magwitch. The names, it's true, have been tinkered with, but the book's literary paternity is unmistakable. So, too, is the post- colonial spin that Carey puts on Dickens's material: this time around, the prodigal Maggs is perceived less as an invading alien than a righteous (if not particularly welcome) refugee.

Of course, rewriting a page-turner from the past offers some major perils, not the least of them being comparisons to the original. Carey, however, more than withstands the test of time, alluding to the formality of Victorian prose without ever bending over backward to duplicate it. In addition, his eye for physical detail--and the ways in which such details open small or large windows onto character--is on par with that of Dickens. Here, for example, he pins down both the body and soul of a household servant: "Miss Mott was lean and sinewy and there was nowhere much for such a violent shiver to hide itself. Consequently it went right up her spine and disappeared inside her little white cap and then, just when it seemed lost, it came out the other side and pulled up the ends of her thin mouth in a grimace." Throw in a wicked mastery of period slang, a subplot about Victorian mesmerism (of which Dickens was, in fact, a practitioner) and an amazing storytelling gift, and you have a novel which meets and exceeds almost any expectation one might bring to it. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Radiant. Peter Carey's narrative rushes like a great stream toward a glittery falls, gathering momentum as it rolls." --The Boston Globe "A rousing old-fashioned narrative. . . . [that] stands on its own as an adventure story." --"The New York Times Book Review" "We have a great novelist living on the planet with us, and his name is Peter Carey." --Los Angeles Times Book Review "Imaginative and audacious . . . A twentieth-century, post-colonial Dickens novel . . . This strange, bold, gripping, and wonderful novel is the story of a power struggle, a double love story, a quest story, and a story of trickery and disguise. It's about taking possession--of an inheritance, of another person's soul, of your own destiny--and being taken possession of. Not least, it's the story of one writer's being possessed by another."--Hermione Lee, "The Observer" "Uncommonly exciting and engaging. As much as anyone now writing, Peter Carey is a master of storytelling. His empathy with his characters, combined with his psychological sharp-sightedness, has them almost jumping off the page in full human complexity. An especial bonus is his style . . . Vivid, exact, unexpected images and language match the quick, witty intelligence flickering through this novel, and make it a triumph of ebullient indictment, humane insight, and creative generosity."--Peter Kemp, "Sunday Times" (London) "Writing and philosophical contemplations of the highest order . . . On a par with, and more interesting than, his two earlier masterpieces . . . An absorbing, beautifully written novel finished off with a most satisfactory happy ending, and with incidents, an atmosphere, and ideas that lingerin the mind."--Carmen Callil, "The Daily Telegraph" "From the Trade Paperback edition."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Wobbly Wellies on 4 April 2008
Format: Paperback
Not sure what I was expecting when I bought this book, other than to say the synopsis caught my interest. The first pages didn't lead me to suspect it was going to reel me in as surely as it did. The protagonist was written superbly; a tough, scarred and tortured soul, a deported criminal forever exiled, sneaking back home to London in 1837 after the harshest years served in a penal colony in Australia and after having made his fortune. For thirty years Jack Maggs has been away, and now he's back on a mission.

Everything here worked splendidly, the mood, the many characters, the story's unfolding. Pointless making the Dickens comparison simply because it's Victorian England. Judge this tale on its own merits. It ended too quickly for me!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Clifford on 8 Mar 2008
Format: Paperback
I'd read "Oscar and Lucinda", but this book is far better; more pace, and stunningly atmospheric in its immersion in mid-19C London. Loads of historical details that take you back in time, not just in the 'history book' facts but also in the way people were and how they got through from day to day. Easy to read, fascinating interplay of human relationships. Superb!
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By johnnybird on 11 Dec 2001
Format: Paperback
A novel of the criminal mind like his later "True
history of the Ned Kelly gang", Peter Carey's "Jack Maggs" is also an earlier stage in his evolving of the recreation of a historical character. Here that character is Charles Dickens: indeed a large part of this novel is a
portrait of that artist by another hand. "Jack Maggs" also hearks back to "Oscar & Lucinda" with its meticulous preparation for catastrophe. Here
however we are treated to a eucatastrophe - JRR Tolkien & CS Lewis' word for a felix culpa, or happy accident - as the disaster is averted or at least mitigated by its benign effects.
Jack Maggs is a criminal, a Magwitch returned to
England to see how his Pip has prospered as a gentleman. More than the horror of the young man at descrying his benefactor is the horror of the
convict at seeing his creation. Jack's "son" is not much of a man and what there is of him is a
Truer hearts lie close to home, as Mercy Buckets fills her name & Lizzie fills a grave. Jack finds an unexpected - and unexpectedly insistent -ally in the girl next door, who insists on shielding him from the worst excesses of his
The Charles Dickens character - we are told he
engages in amateur dramatics presumably with such pals as the illustrator of "A Christmas Carol" - has two roles to fill: he is a catalyst for the hero and his foil, and he is also the object of study.
No recent book has given a more fluid inspection
of the creative act. Dickens - or Toby - collects not the mugs not the faces but the minds and
quirks of his neighbors, the people who people
his London. His use for Jack is as a treasure trove, a mother lode of the Criminal Mind.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 Jun 2001
Format: Paperback
Peter Carey's Jack Maggs.
This thrilling and original story, part historical novel and part literary fantasy, is one of the most exciting, erudite, and compulsively readable works of fiction to come along in recent years.
London, 1837. Jack Maggs, a foundling trained as a thief, betrayed and deported to a penal colony in Australia, has reversed his fortunes. Under threat of execution he returns to London after twenty years of exile to try to fulfill his well-concealed heart's desire. Masquerading as a footman, Maggs places himself in the rather eccentric household of Percy Buckle, Esquire. But when the unlikely footman comes under the scrutiny of the brilliant and unscrupulous young novelist Tobias Oates, an enthusiastic dabbler in mesmerism, Maggs's secrets are revealed and he is forced to take desperate, sometimes violent action. A powerful and unusual homage to Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, Jack Maggs displays all of Peter Carey's broad historical and artistic knowledge, his masterful command of character, and his powerful moral vision.
Fulfilling Expectations Peter Carey's new novel, Jack Maggs, spins an enthralling variation on a Dickens classic
Banished for life to New South Wales, a convict eventually returns to 19th century London, risking hanging if the law discovers him, all because he wants to see Henry Phipps, the young English gentleman he has "made" by sending money from abroad. Does that premise sound familiar? It will to those who have read Charles Dickens' Great Expectations and remember Pip's turmoil when he learns that his elevation in society has been financed by the fearsome felon Abel Magwitch. The novel being described here, however, is Peter Carey's Jack Maggs. What the dickens is Dickens' plot doing in Carey's new fiction?
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 6 Jan 2007
Format: Paperback
I've always had a fondness for crime novels set in Victorian London (the book is set in the first year of her reign actually), but few of the many I've read can equal 'Jack Maggs' for the quality of its plot, characters, and language.

This is one of those rare books where you're torn between the constant urge to read on and the awareness that this selfsame act unfortunately brings you ever closer to the end.
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