Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Carey, Peter "True History of the Kelly Gang"

Carey, Peter "True History of the Kelly Gang" - 2001

Not being from a Commonwealth country, I had never heard of the Kelly Gang before. When I saw this book, it looked interesting. And it was. The style is unique, the book has been written as if they are different scraps from letters or notes Kelly wrote to his daughter. I found the information about this part of the Australian history interesting, especially since it is said to be true.

The writing takes a little getting used to as he hardly uses any punctuation and isn't very careful with grammar and spelling either (as I said, as if written by the guy himself) and the language is quite colloquial (to put it mildly). But - that only adds to the beauty of the story.

I really liked this book.

From the back cover: 
"'I lost my own father at 12 yr. of age and know what it is to be raised on lies and silences my dear daughter you are presently too young to understand a word I write but this history is for you and will contain no single lie may I burn in Hell if I speak false.'
In True History of the Kelly Gang, the legendary Ned Kelly speaks for himself, scribbling his narrative on errant scraps of paper in semiliterate but magically descriptive prose as he flees from the police. To his pursuers, Kelly is nothing but a monstrous criminal, a thief and a murderer. To his own people, the lowly class of ordinary Australians, the bushranger is a hero, defying the authority of the English to direct their lives. Indentured by his bootlegger mother to a famous horse thief (who was also her lover), Ned saw his first prison cell at 15 and by the age of 26 had become the most wanted man in the wild colony of Victoria, taking over whole towns and defying the law until he was finally captured and hanged. Here is a classic outlaw tale, made alive by the skill of a great novelist."

Peter Carey won the Booker Prize for "True History of the Kelly Gang" in 2001.

I also really enjoyed "Oscar and Lucinda" by the same author.

And here you can find a great review by an avid Australian reader. Lisa from ANZ LitLovers LitBlog has written such a great description of the book and if you are at all interested in this story, I highly recommend visiting her blog.


  1. This is one of those fictionalised lives that is only loosely based on the truth. Kelly, did not, for example, have a lover or a child. A lot of other things have been invented too, which makes it more interesting as a story, but also for unpacking why Carey made the changes he did. I've only just finished reading True History and applied my sceptical antennae to it because I'm not at all convinced by the Australian Robin Hood folk hero story at all. I hope to publish my review tomorrow so perhaps you might like to have a look at it then!

    1. Oh, definitely, Lisa. I have never been to Australia, and I hadn't even heard from Ned Kelly when I first read this but have read a little more about him in the meantime. So, I am very grateful to you for your comment and am looking forward to your review.

      It is always great to get insights from local people, even though he lived a long time before us. But we always hear from our ancestors and can contribute in that way. Thanks so much.