in random

the true history of the kelly gang (peter carey)

i’ve never been in a book club (i was too busy with uni when they were all the rage.. there was *one* bookclub meeting that I went to, but that ended up being a book swap and red wine binging session!), and its been a long time since I’ve written a book review. And, when I was reading this book I didn’t expect to be writing about it (or liking it for that matter)…

all those disclaimers aside, I thought I might share with you what I’ve been reading during my commute back and forth from work each day. This is pretty much the only quality reading time I get, so if I end up reading it on the weekend or in the evening, that’s usually because I’m pretty hooked. I didn’t expect to get hooked on this book, but I finished it on Saturday evening on the couch at home, so there you go. I did like it. A lot.

I read this book on the recommendation of my friend Melissa. She’s one of the people I go to when I’m looking for a new book to read. She’s good at recommending good books. I’d never have read this one without her.

I wonder whether Melissa picked up this book more readily because she’s a Kiwi and not an Australian. I went through my ‘Peter Carey phase’ in my late teens. I fell utterly in love with Oscar and Lucinda, which I studied for my HSC. By the time I was at uni he wasn’t doing it for me any more. There could have been lots of reasons for this that had nothing to do with Peter Carey though!

So, when Pete published The True History of the Kelly Gang it didn’t really register on my radar. Afterall, I knew the story of the Kelly Gang (i even saw the movie!). Sure, Ned Kelly was a kind of interesting guy… for a bushranger. *snore*
Having reached the end of this book, its as though there are now two Ned Kellys – the pre-book version, who is a rough and gruff charicature, and the post-book version, who is multi-dimensioned and whose story is much longer and much more complex that I had ever expected (and I thought I knew the story!).

Now, I don’t know (and I haven’t investigated) how much of Carey’s story is based on historical documents and how much of it is completely fictional. To be honest, that doesn’t really make much difference to me – I like his version of the story. Before this version I never knew that there was a bushranger called Harry Power, nor that Ned was apprenticed to him in his early teens (by his mother!). I never knew that Ned Kelly fell in love and that he apparently had a daughter (I’m not giving away the ending here, obviously, this book is written ‘to’ his daughter). Lots and lots of the stories that I thought I knew were given much richer dimensions in Carey’s version of events. Come the end of the book, I really felt as though I’d gotten to know this character – and he was a character that I genuinely liked and respected, and that I felt such great sadness for. Eh. Its almost enough to bring a girl to tears, I tell you.

So, there you go. A rather ‘light’ review I know, but – if you’re take on the Kelly Gang is anything like mine was, its definitely worth a read. I feel as though I’ve learned a lot and it touched me in a way that many other books I’ve read lately have failed to do.

Thumbs up! :)

Next: I’m currently reading Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything

At standard bus-pace you’ll need to give me a couple of weeks to get back to you. Having said that, I’m about 12 pages in and its going well so far. (I’m biased tho’. Malcolm Gladwell says he likes it so I’m approaching it optimistically, despite the word ‘economist’ in the title!). I’ve already been surprised by the assertion in the introduction that the drop in crime in the US in the 90s is attributeable to the Rowe v Wade decision. Who’d have thought?

  1. He didn’t have a daughter that part was fiction. We are currently studying True History and personally I couldn’t get into it. It’s a lot more long winded then I would have expected for something which is meant to be set as rushed.

  2. hi Hannah.

    yeah, i did a bit of research after I wrote this post and found that most of the things I thought seemed ‘new’ about the story were pretty much made up. They certainly made the story more interesting for me.

    Sorry to hear you’re finding it a bit longwinded… personally, once I got into the rhythm of the strange punctuation style, I really got into it and couldn’t put it down by the time I was halfway through.

    Although, thinking about it now, given the short timeframe it’s supposed to represent, it does seem much longer, doesn’t it.

    Where abouts are you studying?

  3. Hello Leisa,

    I’m studying at Eltham High School, and I agree that it is easy to get into once the punctuation is gotten past, but I think it just comes into too many blocks along the way. I am enjoying it for the most part, but am also rather enthusiastic to move onto our second book-study of the year, Pride and Predjudice. Now that’s a book that can’t be put down!

    And yes, the True History certainly does seem a lot longer, although I guess that’s just how books sell, right?

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