True History of the Kelly Gang Paperback – 5 Aug 2004
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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.
'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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Couldn't put the book down, it was so enthralling. What a bargain.Published 7 months ago by ruffyed20
This is, as Peter Carey so carefully informs us, the True History of the Ned Kelly Gang.
And why should it not be? Read more
I came to this book - and the author - with plenty of high-level recommendations ringing in my ears (Robert McCrum in The Guardian for one - he made it No 100 in his best 100... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Mike Collins
A compelling account with easily traceable place names.
Ned Kelly, according to this narrative was a decent young man with potential and a strong sense of family. Read more
Interesting look at 19th century Australia - good follow up to recent TV series 'Banished'Published 13 months ago by Pete
Interesting account of Ned Kelly, but not as good a read as Ian Jones " A short life of Ned Kelly"Published 13 months ago by peter walton
True history of the Kelly gang. Took a while to 'get into' the style of writing but otherwise it was a good read with many pleasantly surprising facts brought to light.Published 15 months ago by patricia stocks