Oscar Hopkins is a high-strung preacher's kid with hydrophobia and noisy knees. Lucinda Leplastrier is a frizzy-haired heiress who impulsively buys a glass factory with the inheritance forced on her by a well-intentioned adviser. In the early parts of this lushly written book, author Peter Carey renders the seminal turning points in his protagonists' childhoods as exquisite 19th-century set pieces. Young Oscar, denied the heavenly fruit of a Christmas pudding by his cruelly stern father, forever renounces his father's religion in favor of the Anglican Church. "Dear God," Oscar prays, "if it be Thy will that Thy people eat pudding, smite him!" Lucinda's childhood trauma involves a beautiful doll bought by her struggling mother with savings from the jam jar; in a misguided attempt to tame the doll's unruly curls, young Lucinda mutilates her treasure beyond repair. Neither of these coming-of-age stories quite explains how the grownup Oscar and Lucinda each develop a guilty passion for gambling. Oscar plays the horses while at school, and Lucinda, now an orphaned heiress, finds comfort in a game of cards with an odd collection of acquaintances. When the two finally meet, on board a ship bound for New South Wales, they are bound by their affinity for risk, their loneliness, and their awkwardly blossoming (but unexpressed) mutual affection. Their final high-stakes folly--transporting a crystal palace of a church across (literally) godforsaken terrain--strains plausibility, and events turn ghastly as Oscar plays out his bid for Lucinda's heart. Yet even the unconvincing plot turns are made up for by Carey's rich prose and the tale's unpredictable outcome. Although love proves to be the ultimate gamble for Oscar and Lucinda, the story never strays too far from the terrible possibility that even the most thunderstruck lovers can remain isolated in parallel lives.
From Publishers Weekly
If Illywhacker astounded us with its imaginative richness, this latest Carey novel does so again, with a masterly sureness of touched added. It's a story, in a sense the story, of mid-19th century England and Australia, narrated by a man of our time and therefore permeated with modern consciousness. Oscar is a shy, gawky, Oxford-educated Church of England minister with a tortured conscience; Lucinda is a willful, eccentric Australian who sinks her family inheritance into a glass factory; and the basis for the star-crossed love that develops between them is a shared passion for gambling. They meet on the boat to Sydney, Oscar becomes Lucinda's lodger after being defrocked for his "vice" and, finally, leaving a trail of scandal behind them, they construct a glass church in the Outback, their wildest gamble yet. The narrative techniques though which Carey dramatizes the effects of English religious beliefs and social mores upon frontier Australia smack of both Dickens and of Fowles's The French Lieutenant's Woman; but he doesn't lean upon his sources, he uses them, for his own subtle and controlled purposes. His prose (full of such flashes as "A cormorant broke from the surface, like an improbable idea tearing the membrane between dream and life") is an almost constant source of surprise, and he is clearly in the forefront of that literary brilliance now flowing out of Australia. 30,000 first printing; $35,000 ad/promo.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.