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True History of the Kelly Gang (original 2000; edition 2001)

by Peter Carey

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Member:Niecierpek
Title:True History of the Kelly Gang
Authors:Peter Carey
Info:Vintage Books USA (2001), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:owned, unread

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True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey (2000)

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In an interview with the Guardian newspaper in 2001, Peter Carey stated that the idea for writing a history of Ned Kelly started when he read the so-called Jerilderie Letter in a museum in the 1960s. This 8,000 word, 56-page letter was dictated to fellow gang member Joe Byrne by Ned following the robbery of the Jerilderie bank in 1879. In it Ned explains why he has been driven to lead a life as a bushranger following persecution of his family by a corrupt police force and victimisation of poor Irish families by the wealthy English squatters.In the letter, Ned gives his version of events and gives his account of the killing of three police officers at Stringybark Creek in 1978 saying "... this cannot be called wilful murder for I was compelled to shoot them, or lie down and let them shoot me". Carey describes the letter as uneducated but intelligent, humorous but also angry and says that "His language came in a great, furious rush that could not but remind you of far more literary Irish writers."

In this novel, Carey has recreated Ned's voice as he heard it in the letter and used it to tell the story of the Kelly Gang. The novel is written in the first person using a stream of rich, almost poetic Irish-Australian vernacular from the 1880s. The cast of characters including his mother Ellen, brother Dan and sister Kate, his best friend Joe Byrne,opium-eater Aaron,and the cross-dressing Steve Hart are all colorfully described so that we have a sympathy and understanding of their natures. Wonderfully re-imagined, the novel is as much a comment on the politics of the time and the struggle between the families of poor convicts eking out a living and the wealthier settlers as it is the story of a bushranger. ( )
  cscott | May 27, 2014 |
Great book.
One of my favorite 'little known historical' books.
Carey is a good author - I'll read more of his books.
Wow - had not one clue about some of the facts I learned about the Kelly boys.
Having spent some time in Australia made this exceptionally interesting. Certainly puts a face and explanation behind the Aussie Song -"Blame it on the Kellys"
Read in 2006. ( )
  CasaBooks | Mar 14, 2014 |
neutral rating.. found some of it interesting but I had a hard time wading through the verbiage in this book. Using the local slang of the time seemed a good idea at first but became frustrating - lots of words I had to look up and that loses me - I like to immerse myself in a book and immersion suffers when you need a "heads up" every so often. ( )
  Mecaza | Mar 7, 2014 |
Our first Peter Carey novel was met with positive views all around this month. Although not all members got a chance to finish it, those who did rated it high and found Carey’s unique interpretation of Ned very enjoyable and it helped to build an empathy for the poorer immigrants of the time.
We had a great discussion on Irish genealogy and the corrupt conduct of the police. Our overall perception of Ned was that given the prejudice his family experienced, he didn’t have much chance of getting on the right side of the law.
Does this mean Ned Kelly was not the dangerous bushranger we are led to believe? We are not sure about that, but Carey’s take on the history certainly leaves room for doubt, and along with it, an extremely enjoyable read!
Monday Night Book Club ( )
  DaptoLibrary | Nov 18, 2013 |
I read this book while in Australia, and was a little disappointed, as I felt I could have learnt as much from a documentary or film. If you know nothing of Ned Kelly it works as a reference point - but does not answer the question I wanted to know, "why do most Australians idolise Ned Kelly so much?" ( )
  IanMPindar | May 16, 2013 |
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The past is not dead. It is not even past.

-- William Faulkner
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for Alison Summers
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By dawn at lest half the members of the Kelly gang were badly wounded and it was then the creature appeared from behind police lines.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375724672, Paperback)

"What is it about we Australians, eh?" demands a schoolteacher near the end of Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang. "Do we not have a Jefferson? A Disraeli? Might not we find someone better to admire than a horse-thief and a murderer?" It's the author's sole nod to the contradictory feelings Ned Kelly continues to evoke today, more than a century after his death. A psychopathic killer to some, a crusading folk hero to others, Kelly was a sharpshooting outlaw who eluded a brutal police manhunt for nearly two years. For better or worse, he's now a part of the Australian national myth. Indeed, the opening ceremonies for the Sydney Olympics featured an army of Ned Kellys dancing about to Irish music, which puts him in the symbolic company of both kangaroos and Olivia Newton-John.

What's to be gained from telling this illiterate bushranger's story yet again? Quite a lot, as it turns out. For starters, there is the remarkable vernacular poetry of Carey's narrative voice. Fierce, funny, ungrammatical, steeped in Irish legends and the frontier's moral code, this voice is the novel's great achievement--and perhaps the greatest in Carey's distinguished career. It paints a vivid picture of an Australia where English landowners skim off the country's best territory while government land grants allow the settlers just enough acreage to starve. Cheated, lied to, and persecuted by the authorities at every opportunity, young Kelly retains no faith in his colonial masters. What he does trust, oddly, is the power of words:

And here is the thing about them men they was Australians they knew full well the terror of the unyielding law the historic memory of UNFAIRNESS were in their blood and a man might be a bank clerk or an overseer he might never have been lagged for nothing but still he knew in his heart what it were to be forced to wear the white hood in prison he knew what it were to be lashed for looking a warder in the eye ... so the knowledge of unfairness were deep in his bone and in his marrow.
Ned Kelly as literary hero? Strangely enough, that's what he becomes, at least in Carey's rendering. Pouring his heart out in a series of letters to the country at large, Kelly wants nothing more than to be heard--and for the dirt-poor son of an Irish convict, that's an audacious ambition indeed. It's not so surprising, then, that his story continues to speak to Australians. Like all colonial countries, Australia was built at a steep human price, and the memory of all those silenced voices lives on. True History of the Kelly Gang takes its epigraph from Faulkner: "The past is not dead. It is not even past." And like Faulkner's own vast chronicle of dispossession, it's haunted by tragedies as large as history itself. --Mary Park

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:01:40 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Ned Kelly, the legendary nineteenth-century Australian folk-hero, describes how he, his brother, and two friends led authorities on a twenty-month manhunt, marked by widespread populist support, before his capture and execution.

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