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Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey

Oscar and Lucinda (1988)

by Peter Carey

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,507512,224 (3.78)385
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Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
Review: Oscar & Lucinda by Peter Carey. 2 Stars 06/24/2018

This was a very tough book for me I just couldn’t get into it but I did read to the end. However, I don’t know what I read but I’m determined to try again another time. I already knew Peter Carey wrote precise, over my head books (for me anyway) but I still gave it a chance when I choose the novel. I was having a bad week with some confusion so I can’t blame the author. I won’t even try to review a book when I don’t understand what it was about so I’ll post an Amazon review instead.

Editorial Review from Amazon : If Illywhacker astounded us with its imagination richness, this latest Carey novel does so again, with a masterly sureness of touched added. It’s a story, in a sense the story, of mid-19th century England and Australia, narrated by a man of our time and therefore permeated with modern consciousness. Oscar is a shy, gawky, Oxford-educated Church of England minister with a tortured conscience; Lucinda is a willful, accented Australian who sinks her family inheritance into a glass factory’ and the bases for the star-crossed love that develops between them is a shared passion for gambling. They meet on the boat to Sidney, Oscar becomes Lucinda’s lodger after being defrocked for his “vice” and, finally leaving a trail of scandal behind them, they construct a glass church in the Outback, their wildest gamble yet. The narrative techniques though which Carey dramatizes the effects of English religious beliefs and social mores upon frontier Australia smack of both Dickens and of Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Women; but he doesn’t lean upon his sources, he uses them, for his own subtle and controlled purposes. His prose (full of such flashes as “A cormorant broke from the surface. Like an improbable idea tearing the membrane between dream and life”0 is an almost constant source of surprise, and he is clearly in the forefront of that literary brilliance now flowing out of Australia. ( )
  Juan-banjo | Aug 27, 2018 |
The first 3/4 of the book are sedate and conventional, following the titular characters through their youth. Carey is a great writer, so it's not particularly boring, but there's no real dynamism in the plot, other than Oscar's break from his demented father and his grapplings with God.

The real story starts on about page 330, but it's worth the wait. It's an Australian Heart of Darkness with an added love story and it's utterly gripping. Here I felt like I was reading the author of the Kelly Gang and Tristan Smith. Gripping and terrible, and I suppose the back story is necessary for the effect, but maybe not quite so much of it. ( )
  yarb | Sep 12, 2017 |
Carey's descriptions of people and countryside are wonderful. And Oscar Hopkins and Lucinda Leplastrier are two of the most interesting characters I have encountered. I can well see why this book won the Booker Prize in 1988. (One of the other books on the shortlist that year was The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie so it had stiff competition.)

The story takes place in both England and Australia. Oscar Hopkins grew up in Devon as the son of a preacher in a Christian sect called the Plymouth Brethren, an ecumenical movement that did not hold with the celebration of Christmas or other fripperies. Lucinda Leplastrier was Australian born although her parents were English. Her father fell off a horse and died and her mother decided to stay and continue farming their land near Parramatta, which is now part of Sydney but in the 1800s was a separate city. When her mother succumbed to illness Lucinda was left an orphan but quite wealthy. Oscar was also sort of an orphan as his mother had died when he was young and he abandoned his father to go live with the Anglican minister because he felt God wanted him to follow the Anglican faith. Oscar went to Oxford to learn to be a minister himself and while there he started gambling in order to support himself. Lucinda, meanwhile, went to Sydney and purchased a glassworks with her inheritance. In the course of doing so she fell in with two men who would have a lasting effect on her life. The first was The Reverend Dennis Hasset, an Anglican vicar but also a man who had written and lectured about glass. The second was Mr. d'Abbs, an accountant recommended to Lucinda to help her look after her money. d'Abbs was responsible for introducing Lucinda to gambling and Hasset became the object of Lucinda's desire. Lucinda went on a visit to England to either get married or encourage Hasset to propose to her. On the return trip, taken on the huge steamship Leviathan, she met Oscar who was emigrating to Australia. Of course two gamblers will eventually play cards together but during this game a bad storm comes up. Oscar, who is deeply afraid of the sea, thinks this is a judgment and resolves to give up gambling. Nevertheless he falls back into the habit and he and Lucinda end up playing poker in his living room in the house he is entitled to as the vicar of Randwick. When they are discovered at dawn by a church deacon Oscar is turfed out of the church. Lucinda takes pity on him and brings him to her home where the two of them live quite chastely. Lucinda, thinking to put Oscar at ease, tells him she is in love with Hasset although she now loves Oscar. Oscar loves Lucinda but is willing to sacrifice to make Lucinda happy. He proposes that he will deliver a glass church that Lucinda's factory will make to Hasset's congregation in Boat Harbour. They make a wager of their inheritances, he that he will get it to Boat Harbour by Easter and she that he won't. Then Lucinda does all in her power to make Oscar's wager succeed. This unusual proposition is hampered by Oscar's fear of water as the sea is the usual route from Sydney to Boat Harbour. The final chapters detail Oscar's overland trip to Boat Harbour. The ending was a great surprise to me and I will leave it a surprise to any future readers.

Definitely a book worth reading and I would agree that it has its place on the 1001 Books to Read before you Die list. ( )
1 vote gypsysmom | Aug 7, 2017 |
This month's choice, Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda, was never going to be a popular one. Most of our group have either tried reading it in the past or have steered away from it all together.

In my experience, that has been a common reaction to this book, but I decided our group was up to the challenge so included it in this year's line up.

It tells the quirky tale of two very off-beat characters, namely Oacar and Lucinda, who meet by chance and are drawn to each other by an obsession with gambling. But there are other forces at work here and the story that builds around these two protagonists weaves into a complex set of life lessons that only Carey can pull off in a novel.

Our opinions varied - which was completely expected. Nancy and Tera gave it a firm "no thank you". Their comments included; too wordy, terrible ending, jumps around too much and characters unbelievable. Lorna could find no empathy with the characters at all and Carol found it hard work. "I had to plough my way through", she commented.

But on the other end of the scale Denise and Jeanette thought it a wonderful book. Full of beautiful words, great research with so much to say about Australia and its people. Viti loved the language, the short chapters and the symbolic nature of the story.

We did agree that Peter Carey's writing does not make for an easy read and either you like him or you don't. But I believe Oscar and Lucinda to be a very unique story that caters to a vast number of readers. But you must open the book with an open mind, to both the story and the author's style, otherwise you won't get past the first chapter!

I read this book about 10 years ago after being told "it was a load of rubbish!" by a library customer. Here we have the crux to finding good books. One man's rubbish becomes another's treasure. And I'll end with a quote from Denise who summed it up with "I'm so glad I read Oscar and Lucinda. It is a book I will never forget!"

Tell Me This ... "Can someone describe the book's plot?"
We all found the plot of Oscar and Lucinda to be rather elusive and shifting. There appears to be a few points during the story where everything is coming together and then it moves sideways once more and starts building again.
There was a general consensus that Carey used organised religion and gambling as symbols for people's needs to believe and belong, and glass (or more precisely) Oscar's glass church, as a paradigm for life itself. If you are reading Peter Carey, things are never so simple as merely looking for a plot!
1 vote jody12 | Feb 13, 2017 |
I don't know if it's because this is the third book I've read recently that's had excessive soul-searching about various protestant sub-denominations but I was struggling so much to care about anything that happened in this for the first 100 pages that I'm abandoning it. I don't feel like the author's level of technical skill matches the minute detail into which he delves into the subjects and characters involved in this novel. There's nothing massively wrong with it, but it does not feel worth the investment of my time to be perfectly honest. ( )
  thebookmagpie | Aug 7, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (14 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Carey, PeterAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Le Tan, PierreCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Syrier, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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for Alison Summers with all my love
First words
If there was a bishop, my mother would have him to tea.
You will preach what you do not believe to men who do not care.
She understood as women often do more easily than men, that the declared meaning of a spoken sentence is only its overcoat, and the real meaning lies underneath its scarves and buttons.
She knew the lovely contradictory nature of glass ... that glass is a thing in disguise, an actor, is not solid at all, but a liquid, that an old sheet of glass will not only take on a royal and purplish tinge but will reveal its true liquid nature by having grown fatter at the bottom and thinner at the top, and that even while it is as frail as the ice on a Parramatta puddle, it is stronger under compression than Sydney sandstone, that it is invisible, solid, in short, a joyous and paradoxical thing, as good a material as any to build a life from.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679777504, Paperback)

Oscar Hopkins is a high-strung preacher's kid with hydrophobia and noisy knees. Lucinda Leplastrier is a frizzy-haired heiress who impulsively buys a glass factory with the inheritance forced on her by a well-intentioned adviser. In the early parts of this lushly written book, author Peter Carey renders the seminal turning points in his protagonists' childhoods as exquisite 19th-century set pieces. Young Oscar, denied the heavenly fruit of a Christmas pudding by his cruelly stern father, forever renounces his father's religion in favor of the Anglican Church. "Dear God," Oscar prays, "if it be Thy will that Thy people eat pudding, smite him!" Lucinda's childhood trauma involves a beautiful doll bought by her struggling mother with savings from the jam jar; in a misguided attempt to tame the doll's unruly curls, young Lucinda mutilates her treasure beyond repair. Neither of these coming-of-age stories quite explains how the grownup Oscar and Lucinda each develop a guilty passion for gambling. Oscar plays the horses while at school, and Lucinda, now an orphaned heiress, finds comfort in a game of cards with an odd collection of acquaintances. When the two finally meet, on board a ship bound for New South Wales, they are bound by their affinity for risk, their loneliness, and their awkwardly blossoming (but unexpressed) mutual affection. Their final high-stakes folly--transporting a crystal palace of a church across (literally) godforsaken terrain--strains plausibility, and events turn ghastly as Oscar plays out his bid for Lucinda's heart. Yet even the unconvincing plot turns are made up for by Carey's rich prose and the tale's unpredictable outcome. Although love proves to be the ultimate gamble for Oscar and Lucinda, the story never strays too far from the terrible possibility that even the most thunderstruck lovers can remain isolated in parallel lives.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:43 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

A nervous Anglican minister, and a teenage heiress, both infected with a gambling bug, embark on an unlikely quest to transport a glass church across the Outback.

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