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True History of the Kelly Gang: A Novel Paperback – December 4, 2001
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What's to be gained from telling this illiterate bushranger's story yet again? Quite a lot, as it turns out. For starters, there is the remarkable vernacular poetry of Carey's narrative voice. Fierce, funny, ungrammatical, steeped in Irish legends and the frontier's moral code, this voice is the novel's great achievement--and perhaps the greatest in Carey's distinguished career. It paints a vivid picture of an Australia where English landowners skim off the country's best territory while government land grants allow the settlers just enough acreage to starve. Cheated, lied to, and persecuted by the authorities at every opportunity, young Kelly retains no faith in his colonial masters. What he does trust, oddly, is the power of words:
And here is the thing about them men they was Australians they knew full well the terror of the unyielding law the historic memory of UNFAIRNESS were in their blood and a man might be a bank clerk or an overseer he might never have been lagged for nothing but still he knew in his heart what it were to be forced to wear the white hood in prison he knew what it were to be lashed for looking a warder in the eye ... so the knowledge of unfairness were deep in his bone and in his marrow.Ned Kelly as literary hero? Strangely enough, that's what he becomes, at least in Carey's rendering. Pouring his heart out in a series of letters to the country at large, Kelly wants nothing more than to be heard--and for the dirt-poor son of an Irish convict, that's an audacious ambition indeed. It's not so surprising, then, that his story continues to speak to Australians. Like all colonial countries, Australia was built at a steep human price, and the memory of all those silenced voices lives on. True History of the Kelly Gang takes its epigraph from Faulkner: "The past is not dead. It is not even past." And like Faulkner's own vast chronicle of dispossession, it's haunted by tragedies as large as history itself. --Mary Park --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
In his seventh novel Peter Carey tells the historically-based story of Ned Kelly and his Irish-rooted fellow-outlaws, from their early days to their early deaths. In the case of this brilliant story, narrated in the first person, "tell", might be an inappropriate term because the voice Carey invent leads us to believe that Ned Kelly himself is the author of these highly vernacular lines. Poor grammar and minimal punctuation make the book hard to read to begin with, but once you have entered it you will never want to leave the colonial South of Australia. Using these unpromising language resources, Carey makes Ned write down his life-story for his daughter (whom he never meets) to justify and rectify all the crimes he is accused of.
But can this Ned Kelly really be accused of anything?
In 19th century Australia, where British landowners settle the best parts of the country and poor settlers nearly starve to death, Ned Kelly grows up in a poor Irish family. Carey gives us great insight into these harsh times when Ned is, from his childhood on, confronted with death, prison, betrayal and permanent unjust treatment at the hands of the police. The young horse thief Kelly grows into a bank robber, bandit, kidnapper and therefore the most wanted man in the whole colony. Yet, his sense of responsibility towards his family, his loyalty to his fellows and his never-ending struggle for justice make him a warm-hearted, loveable hero and ensure him a place in the hearts of Australians to this day.
From his youth on Ned follows the voice of his heart, which tells him not to obey the unjust oppressors, and the police therefore pursue him. In his account of this ongoing pursuit with numerous action-packed showdowns, Carey spins an entertaining, deep and profound characterization of his protagonist. The reader is drawn into the story and is able to feel what Ned Kelly feels: anger, sadness, happiness and also love. In this powerfully narrated and heart-rendering story the reader is always on Ned Kelly's side and close to his thoughts. As we track Kelly's inner feelings and motivation we are also faced with a dilemma: should we sympathize with the outlaw or condemn him. The reader is enthralled throughout the novel and identifies with the hero, although much blood is shed. The novelist wins the battle for the reader's hearts and minds. But will Ned Kelly survive the last showdown?
Another book that has dealt with trying to get into the real character of Ned Kelly was Our Sunshine. I feel that "True History of the Kelly Gang" gives us a more in depth feel into one view of what the true Ned Kelly was like. The characters in the book comes alive and at times, you forget that this was not written by Carey but by Ned himself (which is what Carey wants the reader to do). The grammatical errors and the lack of punctuation did become confusing at times but, trust me, you get used to it and it also makes the story come alive and makes it very, very believable. It is almost like the new phase of Reality TV but better.
The book deals with all the events that Ned Kelly went through and Carey weaves all these events with Kelly's personal life and an example of what he might have felt during different stages of his life. The layout of the "project" is given to the reader in a package form from his younger days to his early death. It is extremely detailed and it is obvious that a lot of painstaking research was poured into the book and it is evident that Carey actually became the Ned that he was painting in his mind.
This is a book that has everything - murder, love, family, loyalty, betrayal, action and most of all, it is able to draw the reader into the situation to feel what all the characters are feeling. It forces the reader to think about whether Kelly was in the right or in the wrong and it creates debate between knowledge that we all might have past before about this character.
It is hard for someone who had never heard of the Kelly story before to really get into this book and to truly appreciate it, some history has to be studied. This is what makes the book fascinating as it is remarkable to see how Carey has weaved the events to make it feel like a flowing river of events. Basically, these parcels/manuscripts that have been written are from Ned Kelly himself to his daughter so as to give evidence that he is not the man the newspapers portray him as. It is a touching and very emotional account of a man that has been wronged for most of his life. But we also have to pause and think whether what all he is saying is true or what he wants to be true.
As a teenager, I recommend it to all age groups (I mean, if it passes for teenagers, it should be able to pass for everyone) as it can be read on many levels - as a story or as a trip into real history.
This book serves its purpose of bringing Ned Kelly to life and I salute and thank Peter Carey for doing that for me.