In True History of the Kelly Gang
Peter Carey returns to the harsh, brutal world of Australian history, so brilliantly evoked in earlier novels such as Illywhacker
and Oscar and Lucinda
. Set in the desolate settler communities north of Melbourne in the late 19th century, the novel is told in the form of a journal, written by the famous outlaw and "bushranger" Ned Kelly, to a daughter he will never see. As Kelly explains, "I lost my own father at 12 yr. of age and know what it is to be raised on lies and silences my dear daughter you are presently too young to understand a word I write but this history is for you and will contain no single lies may I burn in hell if I speak false".
The salty, colloquial, unpunctuated style of Kelly's journal is reproduced with great skill, as Carey recounts the outlaw's early life with a cross-dressing, Irish immigrant sheep worker, and a beautiful but headstrong mother, always on the wrong side of the law. Inadvertently causing the arrest and death of his father, Ned realises that "there were a drought and nothing flourishing there but misery I were the oldest son I thought it time to earn my place", a decision that ultimately leads him into conflict with the law, and to form the notorious Kelly Gang.
The novel contains some wonderfully lyrical and deeply moving moments, as Ned struggles to articulate the harsh injustice of the world around him, but some readers might find Carey's epistolary style rather restrictive and colourless after the first 100 pages, and lacking in the imaginative excitement of Carey's earlier novels. --Jerry Brotton
"A spectacular feat of imagination."-"The Boston Globe ""Vastly entertaining.... Triumphantly eclectic, as if Huck Finn and Shakespeare had joined forces to prettify the legend of Jesse James."-"The New York Times""The ingenuity, empathy, and poetic ear that the novelist brings to his feat of imposture cannot be rated too high."-John Updike, "The New Yorker ""Carey succeeds in creating an account that not only feels authentic but also passes as a serious novel and solid, old-fashioned 'entertainment.' A big, meaty novel, blending Dickens and Cormac McCarthy with a distinctlyAustralian strain of melancholy."-"San Francisco Chronicle""Abravura performance.... Rewards the persistent reader with a powerful emotional experience."-"The Wall Street Journal ""Carey's pen writes with an ink that is two parts archaic and one part modern and colors a prose that rocks and cajoles the reader into a certainty that Ned Kelly is fit company not only for Jack Palance and Clint Eastwood but for Thomas Jefferson and perhaps even a bodhisattva."-"Los Angeles Times""The power and charm of [this book] arise not from fidelity to facts but rather from the voice Carey invents for Ned Kelly...."-"Time""So adroit that you never doubt it's Kelly's own words you're reading in the headlong, action-packed story."-"Newsweek""This novel is worth our best attention."-"The" "Washington Post Book World ""An avalanche of a novel.... Cary has raised a national legend to the level of an international myth."-"Christian Science Monitor" "Packed with incident, alive with comedy and pathos . . . contains pretty much everything you could ask of a novel." -"TheNew York Times Book Review" "The ingenuity, empathy, and poetic ear that the novelist brings to his feat of imposture cannot be rated too high." -John Updike, "The New Yorker""Carey's pen writes with an ink that is two parts archaic and one part modern and colors a prose that rocks and cajoles the reader into a certainty that Ned Kelly is fit company not only for Jack Palance and Clint Eastwood but for Thomas Jefferson and perhaps even a bodhisattva." -"Los Angeles Times"
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