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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
2,927None1,957 (3.78)296
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» See also 296 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
Lovely, tragic story of two people who just never quite make it for so many reasons. ( )
  notmyrealname | Jan 23, 2014 |
I didn't actually read this movie tie-in version. The text is the same, obviously, but my paperback has an old print of the Crystal Palace on the cover, all undergraduate intro to architecture -style.

This is one of my favorite books EVAR. It's weird, gothic, grotesque, delicate, intricate, brilliant (wonderfully well-written, and also in the sense of evoking light), horrifying, and exhilirating. None of which words mean much by themselves so I'll try and explain better.

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of logic, organicism, and irrationality in each of the book's major components: characters' attitudes towards religion; gambling; the conception and realization of the glass church; love in various forms. These three forces (phenomena?) drive the plot as they come together, or into conflict time after time.

Clearly i'm not so good at reviewing books. Just...go read this one. ( )
  amelish | Sep 12, 2013 |
It's long, at times it's tedious, but it is a book that remains with you long after the last page. The characters of both Oscar and Lucinda are so well drawn and their interaction is told with such tension that it is painful but with generous splashes of humor that just sparkles. I agree with some of the reviewers who feel the ending somewhat loses steam, but that is very minor. Great writing. If you enjoy a historical love story set in a far away land involving two people who are far from ordinary, try "Oscar and Lucinda." ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 17, 2013 |
The first of Carey’s novels I read was True History of the Kelly Gang, which, at the time, I classified as “good but not great,” only to find that it grew on me the more I thought about it afterwards. His first novel, Bliss, I didn’t find particularly compelling, so I’ve skipped over his second novel, Illywhacker, even though I own it. Instead we come to his third book, Oscar and Lucinda, which won him his first Booker Prize and could safely be considered his break-out novel.

An unconventional love story, Oscar and Lucinda is a historical novel set in the mid-19th century, dealing with the lives of Australian heiress Lucinda Leprastier and English reverend Oscar Hopkins. The novel tracks both of their lives from childhood, as they develop the gambling addiction which eventually brings them together, and turns into a bizarre quest to transport a pre-fabricated glass church across four hundred kilometres of Australian bush to a remote coastal town.

Unlike True History of the Kelly Gang, and even unlike Bliss, Oscar and Lucinda has a tone to it which one might describe as “comic.” The characters and locales are simultaneously realistic yet exaggerated. Carey slips in and out of different character’s heads, often in the same paragraph, and less important characters are often portrayed through the lens of some particular social quirk or obsession which colours their reaction towards either Oscar or Lucinda. This reminded me, more than anything else, of the writing style of Terry Pratchett – characters in the 19th century style who range from vain to petty to frightened to Machiavellian. This isn’t a bad thing, but it’s certainly very unusual, and can make things difficult to follow. Nevertheless, Carey paints an evocative picture of colonial Sydney – filthy, parochial, sub-tropical, and avaricious, yet the jewel in Australia’s crown and a city unlike anywhere else in the world – which worked quite well for me as I happened to be visiting Sydney while reading the first half.

The other odd thing about Oscar and Lucinda is that, after a relatively light and comical 450 pages – pages dealing with death and disgrace and misfortune, certainly, but still pages narrated in a humourously whimsical manner – the final 50 pages suddenly plunge into dark and terrifying territory indeed. The very final chapter could fairly be described as a horrific nightmare. I mean this in the best possible way; it came completely out of the left field for me, and was stunning and powerful. Perhaps if I’d been sharper I would have noticed the clues scattered along the way. (I did notice a few of them, but misinterpreted them.) The novel begins strangely, narrated by Oscar’s great-granddaughter, who then fades into near-irrelevance. If it had begun more conventionally, or if I’d been paying closer attention, I would have realised Oscar’s fate was spelt out in the novel’s very first paragraph.

Oscar and Lucinda is a good book. It’s a very odd book, a very unique book, because Peter Carey is really a one-of-a-kind writer. That doesn’t necessarily mean I always enjoy the way he writes – there are more than a few places in Oscar and Lucinda where I was bored – but viewed as a whole, this novel is bold, unique and excellent. It contains a number of scenes that will stick in my memory, and the ending is jaw-dropping. Perhaps, in retrospect, Oscar and Lucinda will grow on me as True History of the Kelly Gang did. ( )
1 vote edgeworth | Jun 29, 2013 |
I think the main tension, the driving force in this novel comes from the gap between what the characters think and what others think they’re thinking. All goes wrong because Oscar misunderstands Lucinda and vice versa. At each turn when Oscar and Lucinda could come together, something thwarts them. Lucinda doesn’t read Oscar’s note till he’s well under way to Bellingen and when she does send after him, they’ve turned off the intended route in a Hardyesque way. Wardley-Fish catches sight of his friend, the Odd Bod, and comes close enough to reaching him but for the captain of the boat that picks him up thinking he’s trying to escape a debt rather than trying to reach an old friend whose life he could have turned around. This is where Carey teases the reader. He brings the situation to the point of a happy resolution only for things to get worse. As I said, it’s that interplay, that contradiction between what people really think and what others mistakenly think they think that is there the whole time – a very dominant characteristic of the style.

Obviously glass is a very important symbol in the book. Its purity (and sometimes lack of purity) is emphasized. Finally Oscar is trapped into death by it. It’s supposed to be magnificent – it can withstand so much pressure but explodes when twisted by pliers. The glass works is meant to be a really magnificent place and Oscar feels at home there. This associates him with the glass.

If it were clear how we are meant to take Oscar’s betting, the theme of the book would be clearer to me but I’m not sure what Carey is heading towards here. Perhaps he wants an open ending. There’s the glass church ending up the place for Anglicans (with corrugated iron replacing the bottom bits) and it was to the Anglicans that Oscar had turned on the throw of a dice in his boyhood. What does this signify? I am sure, though, that we are meant to be sympathetic towards both of the main characters. Oscar fears at the end that he has committed many sins but we see him as someone who has really kept his morality very much intact, it being his naivety, his inability at times to recognise that is really going on, that is his downfall – as with his approach to Lucinda.

I like the very realistic feeling that there is ion the novel. Since it’s supposedly told by Oscar’s great-grandson, it has an authenticity about it even if all those conversations are obviously beyond what would emerge from a family history. Still, it helps to make Oscar a real figure while his thoughts and the tiny, irrelevant details help to make the piece seem more realistic too.

Is the book about whether God exists? Is it to do with gambling? There are many ways in which gambling is linked to divine manipulation with Oscar being able to make money when gambling out of need but then we see him having difficulties when he becomes engrossed in it for fun – on the ship and in his front room at Randwick. Stratton, of course, hanged himself from a church rafter when he fell apart as a result of gambling. Wardley-Fish didn’t have much luck either. Oscar also has premonitions of his death – in a fishtank, his father smiling at him – and that’s what he feels as he drowns, but the impression that he will die is dispelled by his screaming. It’s as if Carey is not allowing the ending to go one way or the other. So too with Lucinda – she loses her fortune and in one ending finishes in a factory bottling pickles while the great-grandson adds that this was before her real life began in the labour movement. ( )
  evening | Jun 14, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Careyprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Le Tan, PierreCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Syrier, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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for Alison Summers with all my love
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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.
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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 Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:24 -0400)

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A rebellious Anglican priest and a teenaged heiress who buys a glass factory in Australia pursue an unlikely romance.

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