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True history of the Kelly gang /

Main Author: Carey, Peter.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Knopf, 2000
Edition: First American edition.
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SUMMARY

Out of nineteenth-century Australia rides a hero of his people and a man for all nations, in this masterpiece by the Booker Prize-winning author of Oscar and Lucinda and Jack Maggs. Exhilarating, hilarious, panoramic, and immediately engrossing, it is also--at a distance of many thousand miles and more than a century--a Great American Novel. This is Ned Kelly's true confession, in his own words and written on the run for an infant daughter he has never seen. 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. In the end, however, she served out her sentence in the same Melbourne prison where, in 1880, her son was hanged. Still his country's most powerful legend, Ned Kelly is here chiefly a man in full: devoted son, loving husband, fretful father, and loyal friend, now speaking as if from the grave. With this mythic outlaw and the story of his mighty travails and exploits, and with all the force of a classic Western, Peter Carey has breathed life into a historical figure who transcends all borders and embodies tragedy, perseverance, and freedom.


Review by Booklist Review

Australian novelist Carey's imagination is tuned to the nineteenth century, the time frame for the Booker Prize^-winning Oscar and Lucinda (1988), the Dickensian improvisation Jack Maggs (1998), and now this rough-and-tumble yet deeply humanistic and beautifully worked tale of a good-hearted man doomed to live a life he abhors. The historically based story of outlaw Ned Kelly and his contentious Irish clan reads like a western in spite of the fact that its frontier is Australia and its bad guys are servants of the queen of England. Carey, a superb yarn spinner with a lot to say about the perversity of human nature, has Ned write his life story for the daughter he will never meet. Ned's voice is pure country and his punctuation minimal, but his decorum is great (he replaces every profanity with the word "adjectival") and his compassion stupendous. Twelve when his father dies, he tries to be the man of the house for his large and destitute family, dreaming of homesteading and horse-breeding, but his tough and pragmatic mother has her own ideas, and Ned is forced into a life of crime as the unwilling apprentice of Harry Power, an infamous highwayman. This is the first of many shocking betrayals, but stalwart Ned remains loyal to his people, acutely aware of the fact that because the Irish were "considered a notch beneath cattle," there was no justice in their lives. The land is vast and wild, but there is no place to hide; Ned endures one absurd and horrific showdown after another, and yet love flourishes. And heroes are not forgotten. --Donna Seaman

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Every Australian grows up hearing the legend of outlaw Ned Kelly, whose exploits are memorialized in the old Melbourne Gaol, where he and his comrades were imprisoned before their execution in 1880. Carey's inspired "history" of Kelly from his destitute youth until his death at age 26 is as genuine as a diamond in the rough. No reader will be left unmoved by this dramatic tale of an instinctively good-hearted young man whose destiny, in Carey's revisionist point of view, was determined by heredity on one side and official bigotry and corruption on the other; whose criminal deeds were motivated by gallantry and desperation; and whose exploits in eluding the police for almost two years transfixed a nation and made him a popular hero. The unschooled Kelly narrates through a series of letters he writes to the baby daughter he will never see. Conveyed in run-on sentences, with sparse punctuation and quirky grammar enriched by pungent vernacular and the polite use of euphemisms for what Kelly calls "rough expressions" ("It were eff this and ess that"; "It were too adjectival hot"), Kelly's voice is mesmerizing as he relates the events that earned him a reputation as a horse thief and murderer. Through Ned's laconic observations, Carey creates a textured picture of Australian society when the British ruling class despised the Irish, and both the police and the justice system were thoroughly corrupt. Harassed, slandered, provoked and jailed with impunity, the Kellys, led by indomitable, amoral matriarch Ellen, believe they have no recourse but to break the law. Ned is initially reluctant; throughout his life, his criminal activities are an attempt to win his mother's love and approval. Ellen is a monster of selfishness and treachery. She betrays her son time and again, yet he adores her with Irish sentimentality and forfeits his chance to escape the country by pledging to surrender if the authorities will release her from jail. This is in essence an adventure saga, with numerous descriptions of the wild and forbidding Australian landscape, shocking surprises, coldhearted villains who hail from the top and the bottom of the social ladder and a tender love story. Carey (Booker Prize-winner Oscar and Lucinda) deserves to be lionized in his native land for this triumphant historical recreation, and he will undoubtedly win a worldwide readership for a novel that teems with energy, suspense and the true story of a memorable protagonist. 75,000 first printing. (Jan. 16) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Australia's Jesse James, Irish immigrant Ned Kelly was an outlaw beloved by the little guy because he stood up to the British at the top. Booker Prize winner Carey embellishes his story in a work that blasts off with a 15-city author's tour and a 75,000-copy first printing. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-Not many outside of Australia have heard of Ned Kelly, the heavily mythologized bushranger (outlaw) who lived out his short 25 years in Victoria during the last half of the 19th century. Carey's True History means to change this, portraying Ned sympathetically as one fated to live hard and die young. Born into destitution, handed over to a notorious bushranger when barely in his teens, mistreated by authoritarian police, Kelly grew into the Down Under equivalent of a Jesse James or Robin Hood. He was hated and hunted by the wealthy and by law-enforcement establishment, but accepted and aided by the common folk. Carey tells Kelly's story via 13 "parcels" supposedly written by the young man himself to the infant daughter he'll never see so that she might "finally comprehend the injustice we poor Irish suffered." Since Carey's prose is consistent with the vernacular of an illiterate youth, the spelling and grammar leave much to be desired and the minimal punctuation can lead to momentary confusion, making it somewhat of a challenging read. Nevertheless, the simple yet penetrating depiction of a harsh life in harsh times, of betrayal and prejudice, of love and camaraderie is so affecting a tale that readers cannot resist being drawn in. "True" history it may not be, but historical fiction doesn't get much better than this.-Dori DeSpain, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
AUTHOR NOTES

Peter Carey was born on May 7, 1943 in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, Australia. His first two books, The Fat Man in History (1974) and War Crimes (1979), were short story collections. His first novel, Bliss, was published in 1982. At the time he was balancing his writing career with the operation of an advertising agency in Sydney, and his books were not generally known outside of Australia. He began to receive international attention when Illywhacker was published in 1985. He won the Booker Prize in 1988 for Oscar and Lucinda and in 2001 for True History of the Kelly Gang. His other works include The Tax Inspector, Parrot and Olivier in America, and The Chemistry of Tears. He also won the Miles Franklin Award three times. (Bowker Author Biography)


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