Sunday, June 15, 2008

50. "The True History of the Kelly Gang" - Peter Carey


Winner of the 2001 Man Booker Prize, this fictionalized account of the true Kelly gang that "tormented" 1860s+ Australia is one of the most unique books that I've read in some time.

First, the language is rough, and for a grammar queen like me, it took some getting used to. Ned Kelly, the so-called leader of this Irish gang, wants his newborn daughter to know the true story of her da, so he writes from the heart. It is a 12-year-old's literacy level, which means there are several sentences that combine several ideas without so much as the dot of a period. It took about 20 pages before I could turn off my teacher-mode and enjoy the visual details.

Ned Kelly and other Irishmen are ripe pickings for English police, and many are imprisoned without so much as a trial. On the other hand, Ned is freed from gaol several times due to his "bush" connections. He wants to be a Robin Hood of the bush, helping widows and children, but he steals from the banks and continues to razz the constables.

I loved the explorer aspect of this novel where I, as reader, page through awkward speech to find the gems of imagery and heart-heavy prose. While it reminded me of Finnegan's Wake, this was much easier to read and felt less like drudging through mire. To find out that Ned Kelly existed and reigned in the Australian outback was a bonus.

3.75 out of 5.0 Kangaroos.

1 comment:

Mini said...

I recently read this book also and completely agree with you about the language, it took some getting used to.