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."