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True History of the Kelly Gang Paperback – 5 Aug 2004

85 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; New edition edition (5 Aug. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571209874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571209873
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 332,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

'Peter Carey has produced some very fine novels before now, but this, I would say, is his finest.' --Daily Telegraph

'Contains pretty much everything you could ask of a novel.' --New York Times Book Review

'[Peter Carey is] without question the pre-eminent literary voice of post-colonial Australia, he loves to take risks.' --Guardian

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 6 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a "western" which gallops to life, and the reader feels the grit, smells the dust, and agonizes with desperate characters as they are tossed every which way, not by their own deliberate decisions so much as by the unpredictability of their Australian frontier existence.
Ned Kelly, the Jesse James of Australia, becomes human here, not a monstrous blackguard so much as a man who is forced to make impossible choices. In this tale, which purports to be the hand-written autobiography he wants to leave for his baby daughter, we follow his childhood in poverty, his reluctant "apprenticeship" to the villainous Harry Powers, his cruel imprisonment by corrupt authorities, and his attempts to stay out of trouble upon his release. The judicial system's attack on his mother, however, becomes the catalyst for Ned's life in crime, a life which the reader understands could have been completely different, had authorities simply shown more compassion.
Carey is masterful in using small details to show contrasts and to make the big picture come alive. A new pair of soft boots achieves almost mystical significance--the ecstasy of their acquisition contrasting with the strength achieved through their sacrifice. "Fresh bread and jam...barley and mutton soup," served to Ned in jail, provide poignant contrast to the poorer, leaner fare on the farm. And a red silk dress becomes a symbol for corruption in one context and love in another.
This is a vigorous, exuberant, and uncompromising vision of wilderness life and death. It is the sensitive portrayal of a young man forced to make impossible decisions to save and protect his family. And it is a passionate love story told with a warmth and sympathy that is all the more poignant for its contrast with the murder and death which accompany it. Satisfying and rewarding on all levels.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 Aug. 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Yes it won the Booker price, and yes I loved it but its' important that you realise that there is no guarentee that you will enjoy it.
The written style is main thing to worry about. The narrators voice, Ned Kelly, can be a hard read. I've heard of people who have said that the found the books style a real grind to read and have never even finished the book. For me Ned Kelly's voice is utterly unique, free of the over intellectual prose of many authors. I was swept away, inside his head, into his world. I had never read anything like it.
It is clear Peter Carey has done a vast amount of research as well as made a massive leap of imagination. The gritty story is filled with tender and powerfully sad moments. It is certainly one of the most accomplished books I have read.
My advice, read a few pages or passages before you buy. If it you like the sound of it then go for it.
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68 of 71 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 19 Oct. 2001
Format: Hardcover
Peter Carey has written an unusual novel that is put together as a series of letters written by Ned Kelly the famous Australian outlaw and bushranger, who became a national hero. It is presented as a raw, personal journal, written to a daughter he would never see. This is not only a very interesting concept but also provides a good insight into life in 19th century Australia. This novel is set in the desolate settler communities north of Melbourne, Victoria in the late 19th century, during a time when the first Irish settlers in Australia faced many hardships and struggles.

Peter's novel is basically a corrective to the popular conception, among some Australians, of Ned Kelly being a thug, thief and murderer. Ned's portrayal in this work is nothing less than a folk hero and freedom fighter, a defiant exemplar of Irish-Australian cussedness in the face of colonial oppression. To the authorities, this son of dirt-poor Irish immigrants was a born thief and, ultimately, a cold-blooded murderer; to most other Australians, he was a scapegoat and patriot persecuted by "English" landlords and their agents. With his brothers and two friends, Kelly eluded a massive police manhunt for twenty months, living by his wits and strong heart, supplementing his bushwhacking skills with ingenious bank robberies while enjoying the support of most everyone not in uniform. He declined to flee overseas when he could, bound to win his jailed mother's freedom by any means possible, including his own surrender if necessary. Ned Kelly was executed by hanging for murder in 1880 in Melbourne, Victoria. In the end his mother served out her sentence in the same Melbourne prison where her son was hanged.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Al plus boots on 12 Feb. 2002
Format: Hardcover
To be honest I had not heard of Peter Carey before I had heard about this book. I bought the book and found I was completely drawn into this world of Australian settlers/immigrants lives in the mid 19 th century. Ned voice was given a clarity and such depth I found I could not put this book down. I did, however, find myself wanting to find out more of Ned, and his descendants....great book. I loved it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 17 Oct. 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a riveting story of the struggle of a family to survive in nineteenth-century Australia. It is told by Ned Kelly himself and the language is correspondingly unpolished with very little use of punctuation. After the first chapter or so, however, you stop noticing the language and get involved in the story. This book has been greatly hyped because of the Booker Prize but it's probably one you should judge for yourself. There's lots that's worth reading even if you're not Australian!
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