Peter Carey Watch #4

Reviews of His Illegal Self

Wendy Smith in "The Los Angeles Times": "Peter Carey won his two Booker Prizes for Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang, epic novels steeped in the history of his native Australia. But he's a thoroughly modern writer, smashing genre boundaries, ranging in tone from wild comedy to grim tragedy, viewing the past with a decidedly contemporary eye and firmly placing late 20th century adventures like My Life as a Fake and Theft: A Love Story in social and cultural context...Carey's fiction doesn't offer definite answers or easy consolations but something much richer".

William Sutcliffe in "The Independent": "It is a truism that the best novels stem in some way from personal experience. Peter Carey, born in the wonderfully named Bacchus Marsh in Australia, now resident in New York, has come up with a curious imaginative inversion of his own biography in his new novel, which takes its characters on a life-altering journey from Manhattan to a commune in tropical Queensland...For much of the book, the boy is unsure whether the woman who is looking after him, and who slowly grows to love him, is his real mother. This question seems to work as a metaphor for the main concern of the novel, which posits that we are nurtured and created as much by our surroundings as by our parents -- and many of us, in the course of our lives, choose whether we want to
be mothered by the city or the wilderness. Carey presents a convincing case that we would be better off with the latter."

Darryl Whetter in "The Vancouver Sun": "The title of Peter Carey's new novel, His Illegal Self, exemplifies his career obsession with double lives, fakery and the breaking of rules legal, moral and personal. Here, as in novels such as My Life as a Fake, Illywhacker and the achingly romantic Theft, he tests his characters with the pressures of hiding, lying and their own costly desires...Carey has a keen eye for hypocrisy. He exposes comrades preaching the brotherhood of man while knowingly passing on venereal diseases. This attention to personal contradiction recurs throughout the novel and fuels its lasting insights."

John Marshall in "The Seattle Post-Intelligencer" :"Carey -- an Australian writer who has twice won Britain's Booker Prize -- has penned a problematic novel in which flashes of narrative brilliance alternate with confusing chronology and trippy plot developments. Perhaps those excesses reflect the times they re-create, but the result is a sometimes enthralling, sometimes maddening work that ends up being the literary equivalent of a towering fly ball caught at the warning track."

Cathleen Schine in "The New York Review of Books": "His Illegal Self is a little book in the way that raspberries or bees or nuggets of uranium are little...One of the wonders of Carey's work is that his great, urgent narratives, so turbulent, so dark, so grand, are at the same time animated by such conscious and playful craft, as well as by a profound comic awareness. The lightness of Carey's touch, the poetic attraction to tender detail, give to the magnificent weight of his tales an unexpected sense of life, of wild, galloping physical movement and growth."


The "Literature Map" entry on Peter Carey plots his position in literature as he relates to other writers in the field. His closest fellow practitioners are Beryl Bainbridge and Tim Winton.

Christopher Bray briefly reviews 30 Days in Sydney in "The Financial Times": "This is a meditation on the writer's sense of place. There are passages in this book -- on the Aboriginal remains on which Sydney's Opera House was built, on the suburban drudge that is the city away from the harbour, on the murderous seas -- which are as good as anything Carey has written."

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 25, 2008 9:37 AM.

Australian Bookcovers #107 - How M'Dougal Topped the Score by Thos. E. Spencer was the previous entry in this blog.

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