Oscar and Lucinda Hardcover – 28 Mar 1988
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Oscar Hopkins is a high-strung preacher's kid with hydrophobia and noisy knees. Lucinda Leplastrier is a frizzy-haired heiress who impulsively buys a glass factory with the inheritance forced on her by a well-intentioned adviser. In the early parts of this lushly written book, author Peter Carey renders the seminal turning points in his protagonists' childhoods as exquisite 19th-century set pieces. Young Oscar, denied the heavenly fruit of a Christmas pudding by his cruelly stern father, forever renounces his father's religion in favour of the Anglican Church. "Dear God," Oscar prays, "if it be Thy will that Thy people eat pudding, smite him!" Lucinda's childhood trauma involves a beautiful doll bought by her struggling mother with savings from the jam jar; in a misguided attempt to tame the doll's unruly curls, young Lucinda mutilates her treasure beyond repair. Neither of these coming-of-age stories quite explains how the grown-up Oscar and Lucinda each develop a guilty passion for gambling. Oscar plays the horses while at school, and Lucinda, now an orphaned heiress, finds comfort in a game of cards with an odd collection of acquaintances. When the two finally meet, on board a ship bound for New South Wales, they are bound by their affinity for risk, their loneliness and their awkwardly blossoming (but unexpressed) mutual affection. Their final high-stakes folly-- transporting a crystal palace of a church across (literally) godforsaken terrain--strains plausibility, and events turn ghastly as Oscar plays out his bid for Lucinda's heart. Yet even the unconvincing plot turns are made up for by Carey's rich prose and the tale's unpredictable outcome. Although love proves to be the ultimate gamble for Oscar and Lucinda, the story never strays too far from the terrible possibility that even the most thunderstruck lovers can remain isolated in parallel lives. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
We have a great novelist living on the planet with us, and his name is Peter Carey.
"Los Angeles Times Book Review"
The stuff of shimmering transparent fantasy, held together by the struts of 19th-century history and the millions of painstaking details.
A kind of rollercoaster ride . . . .The reader emerges . . . gasping, blinking, reshaped in a hundred ways, conscious that the world is never going to look the same again.
"The Washington Post Book World"
Carey luxuriates in language . . . . [Oscar & Lucinda is] a brilliant success.
"San Francisco Chronicle"
It is Thomas Wolfe one is reminded of most when reading Peter Carey . . . they share that magnificent vitality, that ebullient delight in character, detail and language that turns a novel into an important book.
"The New York Times Book Review"
[Oscar & Lucinda] is very, very hard to put down. There are many pleasures to be had here, chief among them the author s gift for telling fascinating, entertaining stories . . . . Like the characters of Charles Dickens and Honore de Balzac, Mr. Carey s creations are real in the simplest human sense.
A commanding writer with laser eye for detail and luxuriant narrative gifts.
"Wall Street Journal"
Peter Carey is to Sydney what Joyce was to Dublin . . . an absolute master of language and storytelling.
Carey can write. He is funny, humane, and profound.
"The Literary Review" (London)
The well of talent from which Peter Carey draws his tales produces work as sweet and refreshing as a mineral spring . . . . Carey nears the summit occupied by Borges and Pynchon and a very few others.
[Carey] works a literary territory all his own, combining elements of absurdism, black humor, social satire and old-fashioned family saga . . . a pleasure.
"From the eBook edition."" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Carey's ability to evoke emotion and describe his characters' feelings and impulses are superb. Thus Lucinda's moods that spring from a complex combination of hurt, anger and uncertainty are totally clear to the reader. And it takes some sort of writer to have his reader (well this reader!) fall in love with a character (Oscar) who is both unattractive and unsuccessful.
A heart rending tale overall, notably in the difficult relationship between Oscar and his father, who finds it so hard to express the love he feels; and of course in that with Lucinda... A true classic
Oscar’s story begins in the 1850s around Christmas time. The servants have baked him a Christmas pudding and they are standing in the kitchen, watching Oscar taking his first bite ever of this delicious treat. Oscar’s father, a widower and an Evangelical Christian, believes Christmas to be a pagan festivity and of course he finds out what the servants and Oscar are up to. He slaps the pudding out of Oscar’s mouth. But it’s too late. The sweet taste of raisins, the cinnamon and the ginger have already made an imprint on Oscar’s tongue. Something so delicious couldn’t be the fruit of Satan, could it? And so Oscar starts to doubt his father’s believes and we follow him on his path to find the meaning of life – which he seems to find in gambling.
Lucinda becomes an orphan at the age of seventeen and a year later, with her inheritance in her purse, she travels to Sydney and buys a glass factory. She tries to establish a profitable business. However, her love of gambling makes this harder and harder.
This shared love of gambling brings Oscar and Lucinda together. They make a bet and so Oscar’s journey begins: he needs to travel 250 miles on foot without breaking the glass church – and there is no turning back.
I’m not surprised that Carey won the Man Booker Prize with this book. It is one of those novels that really deserves to be read – You can feel all the seconds, the sweat and tear drops that have been put into it.
The characters keep popping up in my thoughts and I know they will stay there for a long time. Because all the short chapters give the character’s different perspectives, this book is a wonderful read. What Lucinda sees as a mere storm, Oscar sees as a sign of God. But not only is this an interesting read, it actually conveys a great life lesson: Life isn’t predictable. You can plan and plan and plan, but in the end it doesn’t matter. Oscar and Lucina shows that many things cannot be controlled and so, sometimes, you just need to go-with-the-flow and see where you wash up.
And the ending – oh my. It’s worth reading this book just so you can be totally bewildered, amazed and shocked when you’ve finished the last few pages.
The writing is very dense, which some might call hard work to read. He also has a cynical observation of humanity, which I particularly noticed in the sections on city society in Australia and on the austere religious upbringing in England. Nevertheless his cynicism is brilliantly articulate and never feels gratuitous. This is truly one of my favourite novels.
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.
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