In a dazzling act of ventriloquism, Peter Carey gives Ned Kelly a voice so wild, passionate and original that it is impossible not to believe that the famous bushranger himself is speaking from beyond the grave. True History of the Kelly Gang is the song of Australia, and it sings its protest in a voice at once crude and delicate, menacing and heart-wrenching. Carey gives us Ned Kelly as orphan, as Oedipus, as horse thief, farmer, bushranger, reformer, bank-robber, police-killer and, finally, as his country's beloved Robin Hood.
Winner of Booker Prize for Fiction 2001.
Winner of Commonwealth Writers Prize 2001.
Winner of Commonwealth Writer's Prize Best Book South East Asia and South Pacific 2001.
Shortlisted for Tasmania Pacific Rim Region Prizes: Fiction 2003.
Shortlisted for IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2002.
Shortlisted for Book Data/ABA Book of the Year Award 2000.
Shortlisted for International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2002.
Peter Carey was born in 1943 in Australia and lives in New York. He is the author of the highly acclaimed selection of short stories. The Fat Man in History, six novels, Bliss, Illywhacker, Oscar and Lucinda, The Tax Inspector, The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith and Jack Maggs, and a book for children, The Big Bazoohley. Oscar and Lucinda has been made into a film by Gillian Armstrong starring Ralph Fiennes.
Carey's seventh novel narrates the brief and violent life of Australian bushranger Ned Kelly. Much of the life is folk-history; the story-telling genius lies in the voice Carey has found for Ned. It is both utterly convincing and yet continually surprising, creating new pleasures on every page. Kelly's knowledge of punctuation extends no further than the full stop, so the prose hurtles along unimpeded by commas, colons, and apostrophes, spilling information before us just like an excited speaking voice. It is a voice dedicated to honesty ('this story is for you [his unseen daughter] and will contain no single lie may I burn in hell if I speak false'), direct, practical, carefully prudish ('It were eff this and ess that and she would blow their adjectival brains out'), which frequently breaks into sudden brilliance of image and colour. On the run with his beloved Mary and her sick child, Ned hears a horseman following and forces her into a hiding place in a stream, then stands waiting, gun cocked. 'A fright of blood red parrots flared and swept through the khaki forest.' Kelly's story is enough to make you weep; his father dies when he is 12, and his mother takes her tribe of children to a government land selection at 11 Mile Creek, where trees need clearing and fences building, and she sells illegal grog to make ends meet. She also sells Ned to Harry Power, who takes him out on a spree of highway robbery, which ends with 15-year-old Ned's arrest. From then on the hostility of the police to the poor Irish in general and the Kelly family in particular, is enough to foil Ned's every attempt to go straight. Kelly is a true folk hero, a bush Robin Hood, bouncing up from every setback with cartoon-character optimism - but in his language he comes alive, his deadpan humour and sharp understanding are made real, and the legend becomes a man. He describes his sweetheart Mary critically overlooking his writing as 'like a steel nibbed kookaburra on the fences in the morning sun' - a description that could equally well be applied to the authorial intelligence behind Ned's voice. Reviewed by Jane Rogers, author of Promised Lands (Kirkus UK)