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An unexpectedly great novel,
By A Customer
This review is from: My Life as a Fake (Perfect Paperback)I had not expected much more from this novel than a fictional re-telling of the "Ern Malley" hoax of the 1940s, so it was a great surprise - and pleasure - to find that it was a great deal more than that. The plot is adequately described in other reviews, so I won't repeat it, except to say that Peter Carey displays astonishing inventiveness both in the many stories told in the book, and in the structure of the different narratives and texts-within-texts.
This is a novel about the stories - which may or may not be true - of a man who may or may not be insane, told to a woman who may or may not be insane, about a larger-than-life (in a literal sense) poet who may or may not have existed. At its core, it is a novel about stories, language and poetry. But if this makes the book sound boring, be assured that it is not. It is an exhilarating, thrilling book, and it is hard not to keep turning the pages.
The title is a clue to some of the mysteries of this book. Whose life is it that is "fake"? The invented Bob McCorkle? His unlikely creator, Christopher Chubb? The poetry obsessive Sarah Wode-Douglass? All of their stories are told in the novel, and we are left guessing how much of the story takes place in the mind of any one of them.
One element of the novel which is a little confusing - I believe intentionally so - is the absence of quotation marks around dialogue. This makes it often unclear who is speaking and, more importantly, blurs the boundaries between narrative and dialogue. We do not know what is narrative "fact" and what is recounted to the narrator.
[Spoiler warning:] Another significant key to the novel is the suicide of Sarah Wode-Douglass's mother when Sarah was a small child. What is the significance of this event? Sarah has no recollection of it (at least until reminded of the fact that she had been covered in blood as a child), yet the events surrounding it are part of the reason for her voyage to Malaysia with one of the participants of her mother's suicide. The novel also ends with Sarah being covered in blood. Has Sarah taken revenge on her father (through the father-figure of Christopher Chubb) who, she has just learned, betrayed her mother immediately before the mother's suicide?
"My Life as a Fake" is a highly entertaining novel, very well written, with depths and complexities that surprised me and left me thinking about the book for a long time afterwards. Highly recommended.