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Jack Maggs Paperback – 8 Jun 1998

4.0 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Paperback, 8 Jun 1998
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Product details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; New edition edition (8 Jun. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571193773
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571193776
  • Product Dimensions: 12.5 x 2.4 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 423,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

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."

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Top Customer Reviews

By A Customer on 12 Jun. 2001
Format: Paperback
Peter Carey's Jack Maggs.
This thrilling and original story, part historical novel and part literary fantasy, is one of the most exciting, erudite, and compulsively readable works of fiction to come along in recent years.
London, 1837. Jack Maggs, a foundling trained as a thief, betrayed and deported to a penal colony in Australia, has reversed his fortunes. Under threat of execution he returns to London after twenty years of exile to try to fulfill his well-concealed heart's desire. Masquerading as a footman, Maggs places himself in the rather eccentric household of Percy Buckle, Esquire. But when the unlikely footman comes under the scrutiny of the brilliant and unscrupulous young novelist Tobias Oates, an enthusiastic dabbler in mesmerism, Maggs's secrets are revealed and he is forced to take desperate, sometimes violent action. A powerful and unusual homage to Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, Jack Maggs displays all of Peter Carey's broad historical and artistic knowledge, his masterful command of character, and his powerful moral vision.
Fulfilling Expectations Peter Carey's new novel, Jack Maggs, spins an enthralling variation on a Dickens classic
Banished for life to New South Wales, a convict eventually returns to 19th century London, risking hanging if the law discovers him, all because he wants to see Henry Phipps, the young English gentleman he has "made" by sending money from abroad. Does that premise sound familiar? It will to those who have read Charles Dickens' Great Expectations and remember Pip's turmoil when he learns that his elevation in society has been financed by the fearsome felon Abel Magwitch. The novel being described here, however, is Peter Carey's Jack Maggs. What the dickens is Dickens' plot doing in Carey's new fiction?
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Confession time - after my latest re-reading of "Great Expectations" I succumbed to the promise that Jack Maggs would tell the back story of the enigmatic convict turned benefactor of Dickens' great work - and I'm usually very sniffy about the genre, particularly of the Austen/Bronte ilk.

What "Jack Maggs" actually turns out to be, is a superbly crafted and adeptly told tale of a tortured soul returning to England, with characters very reminiscent of Magwitch, Pip and even Dickens himself, which flavour a satirical take on early 19th century London, told from an acerbic colonial's viewpoint. By about a quarter the way through, I was hooked on the book on its own merits, rather than a pastiche (though one thing I missed were Dickens' extravagant character names, Carey's are very utilitarian by comparison!)

Excellent, thought provoking, and all the better that Jack Maggs gets a happier ending than Magwitch!
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Format: Paperback
I'd read "Oscar and Lucinda", but this book is far better; more pace, and stunningly atmospheric in its immersion in mid-19C London. Loads of historical details that take you back in time, not just in the 'history book' facts but also in the way people were and how they got through from day to day. Easy to read, fascinating interplay of human relationships. Superb!
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Not sure what I was expecting when I bought this book, other than to say the synopsis caught my interest. The first pages didn't lead me to suspect it was going to reel me in as surely as it did. The protagonist was written superbly; a tough, scarred and tortured soul, a deported criminal forever exiled, sneaking back home to London in 1837 after the harshest years served in a penal colony in Australia and after having made his fortune. For thirty years Jack Maggs has been away, and now he's back on a mission.

Everything here worked splendidly, the mood, the many characters, the story's unfolding. Pointless making the Dickens comparison simply because it's Victorian England. Judge this tale on its own merits. It ended too quickly for me!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was asked to read this for a book group, and didn't expect to like it, anticipating that it would be grim and depressing.
However, to my surprise I really enjoyed it, and found it to be a 'page-turner'. It is well written and easy to read.
Set in Dickensian times, it isn't for the squeamish or faint hearted, but not gratuitously so. Carey brings the characters and settings to vivid life. Because we see the desperate origins of the protagonist, we can empathise with his imperfections, and find ourselves 'rooting' for him. I won't give away the ending, but it isn't depressing, and there's plenty of nail-biting excitement along the way.
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By Keen Reader TOP 50 REVIEWER on 11 July 2014
Format: Paperback
"Listen carefully, fool. You do not have the devil's notion who you're dealing with."

I picked up this book on a whim, drawn by the cartoon on the front cover which is reminiscent of a Georgian satirical cartoon. I'm not quite sure what I expected from the book, but it tells the tale of Jack Maggs, returned to London in 1837 from criminal deportation to Australia some years earlier. There, he immediately sets about looking up some people who he clearly feels he needs to catch up with. We follow him on this journey as he finds himself a place with the oddly assorted bunch in the household of Percy Buckle Esq.

Quite what Jack Maggs might be up to in London is a bit of a mystery to us, but ever so slowly, layers of Jack and his previous life, and why he might be so interested in Mr Buckle's neighbours starts to become a little clearer. In the first months of 1837, the story of Jack Maggs, his past and his present come to a tremendous climax, where everybody he ever knew and everybody he has met since his return finally understand the true man behind the name.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book; to me, it was like a union of Dickens and Thackeray; bitter, brutal, driven by characters for whom life was short and every day had to be lived to the full to their advantage. The motivations of the characters and the drive of Jack Maggs himself held me enthralled from the first page to the last. I was really sorry when I finished the book, as it was one of those books you read avidly to find out what happens next, but really wish there could be more when it's all over. Totally recommended to anyone who has read and enjoyed Dickens, Thackeray or Ainsworth.
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