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Jack Maggs (1997)

by Peter Carey, Peter Carey

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1,737339,784 (3.64)177
The year is 1837 and ex-convict Jack Maggs has returned illegally to London from Australia. Installing himself in the household of a genteel grocer, he attracts the attention of a cross-section of society. Saucy Mercy Larkin wants him for a mate. Writer Tobias Oates wants to possess his soul through hypnosis. Maggs, a figure both frightening and mysteriously compelling, is so in thrall to the notion of a gentlemanly class that he's risked his life to come back to his torturers. His task is to shed his false consciousness and understand that his true destiny lies in Australia.… (more)
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    Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch (Laura400)
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    Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (suzecate)
    suzecate: both novels that revisit Great Expectations
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    Foe by J. M. Coetzee (CGlanovsky)
    CGlanovsky: Post-Colonial novel appropriating classic characters and fictionalized versions of their creators.
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    The Alienist by Caleb Carr (Sandwich76)
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    A tale of two countries: 'Jack Maggs' and Peter Carey's fiction.: An article from: Australian Literary Studies by Anthony J. Hassall (KayCliff)
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    Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (KayCliff)
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» See also 177 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Inventive novel about a convict who returns to London from NSW to complete unfinished commitments from the time before his arrest. Carey's novel is set in 1837-38, that is Dickens' London. The atmosphere is craven and dirty; life is precarious and dangerous.
Carey holds the reader's interest despite a narrative that wanders at times. There is a strong link to Charles Dickens himself in the character of Tobias Oates, (a joke name perhaps based on the famous breakfast food, Uncle Toby's Oats available in Australasia) who is a parody of the young impecunious Dickens, and at odds with the carefully crafted "nice man" image that has grown up around him.
So, strongly atmospheric, a sparkling dialogue from characters who know all too well that life is treacherous and the double-cross awaits at every opportunity.
  ivanfranko | Nov 5, 2023 |
In this Gothic tale set in Victorian times, protagonist Jack Maggs is a transported convict returning covertly to England from Australia. It is initially a mystery as to why he is has returned, except that he wants to find Henry Phipps. He arrives at the house of Phipps’ next-door neighbor, Percy Buckle, where he joins the serving staff. He is introduced to Tobias Oates, a novelist and mesmerist, who desires to uncover Jack’s history. We meet the other members of both the Buckle and Oates households. We learn of their financial situations and romantic entanglements.

I found this a fascinating story. The storylines are beautifully intertwined, the writing is sophisticated, and the plot is complex. It is a dark tale, filled with realistic and flawed characters. The dialogues are particularly well crafted. The characters have ulterior motives. It is filled with deceptions, manipulations, and schemes. The plot is moved forward by Jack’s search for Henry Phipps. The author skillfully reveals small bits and pieces of their backstories until it all comes together in a gripping conclusion.

Jack Maggs is a memorable character. At first, I thought Maggs would be the villain, but as I read further, I came to care what happened to him. He is multifaceted. He has committed crimes, but he also feels regret. He can be both cold and kind. He has held an idealistic version of events in his mind, and he has trouble letting go of the ideal in the face of a different reality.

I am impressed by the character development and the way Carey gives them such rich personalities. It is an atmospheric piece that transports the reader to the 19th century. I always looked forward to picking this book up and reading a bit more about the machinations of these fabulous characters. The ending is unexpected but satisfying. I truly enjoyed the reading experience. ( )
  Castlelass | Dec 2, 2022 |
Another school read. I hated it. It was long and slow and boring. ( )
  funstm | Dec 1, 2022 |
The story is set in London and is likened to Dickens, specifically Great Expectations. We have Jack Maggs who is a foundling, led into a life of crime by circumstances and then sent to Australia. This is a book by an Australian author but set in England. Jack Maggs returns to England even though he faces execution, he considers himself a Londoner and not an Australian. It was an enjoyable read and entertaining. this is my first Carey novel. I rated it 3.5 stars ( )
  Kristelh | May 4, 2022 |
Kept reminding me of Dickens, and the NYT tells why: http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/02/08/reviews/980208.08jamest.html ( )
  Martha_Thayer | Jan 13, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
Im englischsprachigen Raum, wo die Romane von Dickens ganz selbstverständlich zu jedermanns Kulturgut gehören, garantiert das literarisch-gebildete Spiel sicherlich einen unterhaltsamen Lesespaß, bei dem man sich auch noch die eigene Bildung beweisen kann. Den Leser in Australien wird speziell die postkolonialistische Emphase aus dem Herzen sprechen, die Carey auf den letzten Seiten des umfangreichen Romans noch schnell aus dem Hut zaubert. Dem deutschen Leser muss sich der Roman jedoch vor allem als eigenständiger Roman beweisen, und da werden die erzählerischen Schwächen deutlicher offenbar. Peter Carey hätte gleich ein Drehbuch schreiben sollen, da hätte er seine Charaktere nicht erklären müssen, die Filmoptik wäre am rechten Platz gewesen, und die entscheidende Begegnung zwischen Sträfling und Kind hätte, bei einer entsprechenden Besetzung, zu einem anrührend-kitschigen Moment werden können. So ist es nur ein Text geworden, der als Text nicht funktioniert.
 
In ''Jack Maggs,'' Carey creates a rousing old-fashioned narrative, and brings to it a distinctly modern, unromantic sensibility.... Carey is not rewriting Dickens here but taking us behind the curtain of Dickens's creation. ''Jack Maggs'' stands in relation to ''Great Expectations'' as ''Great Expectations'' itself stands in relation to Dickens's life: it is a fictional extrapolation in which ''real'' events and sources are merely glimpsed; they have been transformed into something fresh, which defies one-to-one correspondences.
added by KayCliff | editNew York Times, Caryn James (Feb 8, 1998)
 
In Jack Maggs, Peter Carey has written a twentieth-century, post-colonial Dickens novel, in an imaginative and audacious act of appropriation. Jack Maggs is Carey's version of Magwitch, the convict in Great Expectations. Dickens's lovable Pip has been turned into Carey's unlovable Henry Phipps. The young Dickens appears as Tobias Oates, one of the novel's central characters, already famous for an early Pickwick-type work, the story of Captain Crumley, but as yet struggling for money, taking on what ever journalism he can get, his private life a mess, his great books far away in the future.

Carey's 1837 London, where most of the novel is set, is a brilliant Dickens pastiche, all 'sulphurous Corruption', glare and crowd and filth and dark corners, its buildings bursting with a violent life of their own. He gets exactly Dickens's effect of being in a phantasmagoric dream and yet in an overpoweringly real physical world. Eccentric minor characters rapidly appear and disappear.... It's a highly interesting combination of powerful style and weak characters. Through all the brilliant contrivance and literary panache comes a profound sadness, looking with tenderness at peculiar humans.
added by KayCliff | editGuardian, Hermione Lee (Sep 28, 1997)
 
With great panache, Carey executes an abundantly atmospheric and rollickingly entertaining reprise of Great Expectations.... Carey creates a vivid, multifaceted picture of 1800s London, especially the squalid and tormented lives of the poor and the criminal underclass.
 

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Careyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Carey, Petermain authorall editionsconfirmed

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It was a Saturday night when the man with the red waistcoat arrived in London.
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When he entered the soul of Jack Maggs, it was as if he had entered the guts of a huge and haunted engine. He might not yet know where he was, or what he knew, but he felt the power of that troubled mind like a great wind rushing through a broken window pane.
He feared poverty; he wrote passionately about the poor. He had nightmares about hanging; he sought out executions, reporting them with a magistrate's detachment.... Along the way, Carey raises larger questions about how writers prey on the lives of others.
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The year is 1837 and ex-convict Jack Maggs has returned illegally to London from Australia. Installing himself in the household of a genteel grocer, he attracts the attention of a cross-section of society. Saucy Mercy Larkin wants him for a mate. Writer Tobias Oates wants to possess his soul through hypnosis. Maggs, a figure both frightening and mysteriously compelling, is so in thrall to the notion of a gentlemanly class that he's risked his life to come back to his torturers. His task is to shed his false consciousness and understand that his true destiny lies in Australia.

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