Publisher: Faber & Faber
Length: 384 pages
About: Journal of 19th century Australian outlaw
Style: 1st person
True History of the Kelly Gang is the song of Australia, and it sings its protest in Ned Kelly’s voice. Carey gives us Ned Kelly as orphan, Oedipus, horse thief, farmer, bushranger, reformer,
bank-robber, police-killer and finally, his country’s beloved Robin Hood. By the time of his hanging in 1880 a whole country would seem to agree that he was ‘the best bloody man that has ever been in
Benalla’. Carey skillfully makes art from his country’s great story and helps us all to understand the measure of that ‘best bloody man’.
Get out of my house.
I looked up to discover Sergeant O'Neil with his hand to his cheek I suppose she must of slapped him for his countenance were turned v. red.
Get out my mother shrieked she had the Irish temper we was accustomed to it.
Ellen you calm yourself you know I never meant nothing in the least improper.
Eff off my mother cried.
The policeman's voice took a sterner character. Ellen said he you must not use such language to a police officer.
That were a red rag to my mother she uncoiled herself from her seat. You effing mongrel she cried her voice louder again. You wouldnt say that if my husband were not gone contracting.
I will issue one more warning Mrs Kelly.
At this my mother snatched up the Sergeant's teacup and threw the contents onto the earthen floor. Arrest me she cried arrest me you coward.
Baby Kate woke crying then. Jem were 4 yr. old sitting on the floor playing knuckles but when the brandy splashed beside him he let the bones lie quiet. Of a different disposition I begun to move
towards my mother.
Did you hear your mother call me a coward old chap?
I would not betray her I walked round the table and stood next to her. Said he You was busy writing Ned?
I took my mother's hand and she put her arm around my shoulder.
You are a scholar aint it he asked me.
I said I were.
Then you must know about the history of cowards. I were confused I shook my head.
Next O'Neil was bouncing to his feet and showing the full hard stretch of his policeman's boots said he Let me educate you young man. No said my mother her manner now completely changed. Please
A moment earlier O'Neil had a stiff and worried air but now there was a dainty sort of prance about him. O yes said he all children should know their history indeed it is quite
...Ned's rescue of the drowning boy, a boxing match, his first meeting with the woman who will become his wife, the ambush, even the small drama of felling a tree -- that are as gripping as any
you could wish to read. His control of dialogue is similarly impressive, whether it be droll or deadpan or just plain laconic. Nor is it simply that Carey has immersed himself in the texture and
language of late-19th-century rural Australia. More than this, he has transformed sepia legend into brilliant, even violent, color, and turned a distant myth into warm flesh and blood. Packed with
incident, alive with comedy and pathos, ''True History of the Kelly Gang'' contains pretty much everything you could ask of a novel. It is an adjectival wonder.
The New York Times Anthony Quinn January 7th 2001 for full review click here
Not so good:
According to the dust jacket, this is an instrument "so wild, passionate and original that it is impossible not to believe that the famous bushranger himself is speaking from beyond the
No disrespect to whichever Faber and Faber employee wrote these words, but I didn't believe for a moment that Ned Kelly was speaking from beyond the grave and, while appreciating the many flashes
of boot-level poetry, I could never get beyond the idea of the authorial performance. True History is mesmerising stuff, but there is a way in which the real people tend to disappear into
the background, while all that is left on stage is the spectacle of an imaginative author playing all the parts himself.
New Statesman, D J Taylor 8th January 2004 for full review click here
About the author
Peter Carey was born in Australia in May 1943 and is the author of six novels. He won the Booker Prize in 1988 for Oscar and Lucinda (which has since been made into a film starring Ralph Fiennes)
and was shortlisted in 1985 with Illywhacker. His other novels include The Unusual Life of Tristan Smith and Jack Maggs (winner of the 1998 Commonwealth Writers Prize). He has also written a
collection of short stories, The Fat Man in History, and a book for children, The Big Bazoohley. He lives in New York.