Saturday, 9 June 2007
True History of the Kelly Gang - Peter Carey
True History of the Kelly Gang is a fictionalised first-person account of the life of Ned Kelly, Australia's most notorious bushranger.
It purports to be an autobiography transcribed from original documents currently stored at the Melbourne Public Library.
In it, author Peter Carey portrays how Ned Kelly, born into a criminal family and brought up in unremitting poverty, inevitably falls into a life of crime. He humanises Kelly and portrays him as a loving son and brother but does not romanticise him; the crimes he committed and the impact they had are described in unflinching detail, but the reader is left with the impression of a boy brought up with poor role models in a harsh and often unfair society who due to a defiant personality made poor life choices set out on a path that inexorably ended in the hangman's noose.
Peter Carey is a masterful storyteller whose greatest talent lies in spinning an enthralling yarn that is both fantastic and believable - at least while you are reading it. The moment you step out of his world you realise that the tale is impossible - but while you are there is grips you by your soul. There are many such stories within the overall story of this book.
True History of the Kelly Gang deservedly won the Booker Prize in 2001. It is great literature that is also very easy to read and get into. Just remember that despite its title and style, the book is a work of fiction.