68 of 71 people found the following review helpful
Historical tale of outlaws, poverty, hardship and prejudice.,
By A Customer
This review is from: True History of the Kelly Gang (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. We come to understand the poverty, hardship, and the prejudice of the colonial police force, during that period of time, particularly towards the Irish. These factors were all part of the plight of Ned Kelly and his gang. Was he a good boy gone wrong?
This is a tale of misunderstanding, foul justice, and the wringing of a family's heart. This novel is packed with history, incidents, alive with comedy and pathos, and contains everything that you could ask for in a truly great work.