Thursday, November 16, 2017

True History of the Kelly Gang

Peter Carey has given me more pleasure over the last thirty years than any other living author. As soon as I can I buy his new books.

Yet strangely I have never got round to this one, which won him the Booker Prize for a second time in 2001. He has been nominated on two further occasions.

I purchased this in hardback. Carey's books are not for those who read twenty pages a night before turning the light off. But hardbacks are too physically heavy to transport on foreign holidays.

I started it once before and realised it needed time and commitment. Two months into a three month sabbatical seemed the perfect opportunity.

And what a joy. Eschewing commas, and using the word 'adjectival' to avoid swear words, or simply replacing letters with asterisks, Carey gives a genuinely believable voice to Australia's famous outlaw. He paints a sympathetic picture, more of a poor son of an Irish immigrant caught up in inevitable, and escalating, crime, than of a deliberate baddy.

The story is largely told by Kelly himself with an explanation, from the beginning but developing, as to how we come to be in possession of his manuscript.

And the story of life in bush-ranger poverty in the second half of the nineteenth century leaves me almost guilty as I read in a favourite comfortable chair with a coffee by my side.

If you have books to finish on your bucket list, add this one.


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