“Oscar and Lucinda: & True History of the Kelly Gang”, by Peter Carey

“Oscar and Lucinda & True History of the Kelly Gang”, by Peter Carey, (Everyman’s Library, Alfred A. Knopf, New York) 2019, $28.88, 902 pages.

Hold on to your reading glasses and be prepared for an excellent read by Peter Carey. The Booker Prize-winning novelist has placed in one volume his two novels, “Oscar and Lucinda” and "True History of the Kelly Gang”.

Peter Carey is an Australian novelist, now living in New York City, who has many book credits to his name. He is known in literary circles for screen writing, short stories and work as a creative writing teacher. His novel “Oscar and Lucinda” was published in 1988. In 2000, he published “True History of the Kelly Gang”.

In “Oscar and Lucinda”, the reader will appreciate the lives of Oscar, an Oxford-educated Anglican clergyman, and Lucinda, an heiress to an Australian fortune. If one wants to appreciate 19th century England and Australia, this book is a must read.

If the reader is not from the Anglican or Methodist traditions, some of the chapters may need special attention. However, it is the characters who define this novel with the shy, awkward, gambling and goofy Oscar meeting the eccentric, feminist and “how can I spend my inheritance” Lucinda.

One of their goals as a couple is to erect a “glass” church building in the darkest of Australia. Without giving away too much, this couple live up to the notions of piety and passion, and often, one of these elements overtakes the other. From their vantage points and interactions with others, Oscar and Lucinda take on the world.

“True History of the Kelly Gang” begins with Ned Kelly introducing the reader to his father and the rest of the Kelly family. Much of the Kelly living was in rural Melbourne, Australia. Many in the family are not considered respecters of law.

This novel involves a bare-knuckle, Australian working class atmosphere and people who do not appreciate the niceties of proper English grammar. The Kelly Gang in their ill-gotten and criminal gains is also known to share their loot with others in the community. Often members of the Kelly family are not polite, and one could not repeat some of their salty language at a church social.

“Oscar and Lucinda & True History of the Kelly Gang” may be the first introduction to some of Peter Carey’s work; however, for those who are familiar with his writings, this book will be refreshing to read again. In both novels, Carey allows the main characters to speak for themselves.

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