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Oscar and Lucinda Paperback – November 11, 1997

4.1 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 touch 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," stated PW. The novel won the Booker Prize.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 433 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage International ed edition (November 11, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679777504
  • ISBN-13: 978-0702227608
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #146,720 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Having read Carey's first novel, 'Bliss', I really didn't think he could write something as good. Luckily for him, and me, and anyone else who reads 'Oscar and Lucinda', he's come very close.
Nothing really happens in the book, but it doesn't matter; there's a beauty in the language used that is extremely rare. This book is pure characterization. Carey's characters are dense and human and live before the book begins and after it ends. It's a love story, but not a conventional one. The love between Oscar and Lucinda builds and builds with every written word, up to an ending which even the most astute and well-read reader will never expect. The ending is what makes the book. It is powerful. I haven't cried since I was a boy, but I came damn close reading the last few pages. It's really incredible stuff.
I found I was thinking about the last scene for weeks after I finished the book; I've even gone back and read sections. How often does a book do that to you? Not very often, I bet. 'Oscar and Lucinda' is a bit slow, but always interesting, surprising, and touching, like 'Bliss', but in completely different ways. The imagery is brilliant -- you will not see the scenes, you will stand there, with the characters, feeling the sun on your face, breathing the same air they breath. That's how good this is. Go and read it.
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By GZA on December 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Oscar and Lucinda is the best book by my favourite living author. I am a failed writer, and it is thanks to authors as talented as Peter Carey (and there are only a handful) that I chose to give up: I couldn't possibly hope to capture human life on the page, with all its infinite possibilities, as beautifully, gracefully, amusingly and touchingly as Peter Carey. As Angela Carter writes on the dust jacket of my copy, "It fills me with a wild, savage envy, and no novelist could say fairer than that". I am currently half way through my second reading of Oscar and Lucinda, and I know what is in store for me. I am prepared to sob like a child, and I am relishing it.
Set in England and Australia in the nineteenth century, the novel is essentially about the precariousness of existence and how people's lives are constructed by chance. Its essence is perhaps best captured in Oscar's speech to Lucinda on the ship Leviathan: "Our whole faith is a wager...We bet that there is a God. We bet our life on it...We must stake everything on the unprovable fact of His existence". And so they sit down to a game of cards.
Objectivity is perhaps an unattainable goal. When I recommend Oscar and Lucinda to my friends, they generally enjoy it. But this is not enough for me. I want them to feel it as keenly as I do - that Carey is an astonishing writer, possessed of an imagination, intelligence, wit and compassion, and the ability to imbue his writing with these qualities, unrivalled by any living author. And that Oscar and Lucinda is a strange, evocative, beautiful, tender novel which will make them laugh and make them cry and make them wish it would never end. I hope this is recommendation enough.
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By A Customer on February 4, 2000
Format: Paperback
For a week, all I wanted to do was read this book. I read it afew months ago, and I still think of the characters. A truly good bookoffers beginnings, struggles, strides and redemption, and this is such a novel. Lucinda is a hero like none other -- she transcends any conventionality. Her life and actions are so unexpected, so real. She is completely her own person, and I marvel at Carey's ability to know her so well. Carey does it all. He masterfully tells a story of theology, human weakness, passion, geography, politics and history. All this is implicit in the text -- you don't get the impression he's sticking stuff in for authenticity -- it's all relevant. Oscar and Lucinda is not a simplistic book, but it's such a quick read. Sometimes when an author is brilliant, they put you off by showing off. Carey is the kind of person you know is an excellent writer, but only because you love the story. And the characters will inhabit your life. I'm not being hyperbolic. I was fascinated with each life -- I cared what happened. I've never gambled, and yet I felt as excited as Lucinda when she entered the parlors and back rooms. Voyages and sweeping landscape made this the best book I've read in a long time -- maybe ever.
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Format: Paperback
I am hard-pressed to remember two more strange protagonists in all of literature than Oscar and Lucinda. That they meet, fall in love and make a bet on whether a glass church can be transported and constructed "by Easter Sunday" for the benefit of an out-of-the-way congregation and its minister is even more absurd. Yet, page after page, I read, absorbing the wonderful and vibrant detail of mid-nineteenth century England and Australia. Only in the world of this novel could these two characters be "perfect" for each other. And in being written, this book issues a challenge to this world to accept that which is odd and unconventional, that which is outside societal and religious standards.
Somehow I am reminded of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice; the interplay between Oscar and Lucinda amongst "strict society" strikes the same chord as that struck in the love story of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, a man and a woman outside the "norm." This book is wonderful reading to get lost in.
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