Reviewer: Bianca from Marlow UK
All that denial and pain and hopes of redemption getting dashed... I felt like my heart had been attacked with a cheesegrater by the time I finished, this book is SAVAGELY sad. Squint, though, and you will see a glittering dark humour in the tragedy as unworldly Oscar is brought down to earth with a crunch and independent Lucinda sees the precipice she approaches too late so high does she hold her head. But they are the most wonderful characters (of course they are, if Carey hadn't made me feel so tenderly for them I wouldn't want to beat him up right now).
Carey's prose has a haunting sensuality to it, especially considering that any sex which does go on is very much on the periphery, just out of sight. Instead, like the luminous descriptions of sea life so lovingly written by Oscar's bible bashing father, every sentence tingles with the beauty of minute observation. It heightens your senses so delicately that whenever pain and discomfort descend upon a character (most of the time) it positively stings. And wrap up warm when reading the Devon chapters.
A 'Spectator' review calls it Dickensian, which should give you some idea of the scope, the complexity, and the universe of characters delineated within. Like Dickens you will find Carey has an eye for detail and an appreciation of the ridiculous which is often biting. These frail creatures play out their lives on the backdrop of colonial Australia, a place where progress is at war with the harsh forces of nature and frail notions of 'civilisation' tainted with the blood of the culture it seeks to replace.
And I haven't even mentioned the gambling, but then I think that it is better understood as a device, a prism would be an appropriate comparison considering the glass theme. Through this prism we see the complex characters of Oscar and Lucinda refracted into bands of conflicting desires and compulsions. Also this idea of Oscar's, that to chose God and a life of renunciation is itself a gamble; the bet of your worldly life for the winnings of the afterlife.
It's not a sure thing that you'll enjoy this book, but take a chance on it anyway, that's my tip.