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Jack Maggs (1997)

by Peter Carey

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,665318,661 (3.66)170
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)
  1. 10
    Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (PilgrimJess)
    PilgrimJess: Another modern take on Dickensian London.
  2. 00
    A tale of two countries: 'Jack Maggs' and Peter Carey's fiction.: An article from: Australian Literary Studies by Anthony J. Hassall (KayCliff)
  3. 00
    Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (KayCliff)
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    The Alienist by Caleb Carr (Sandwich76)
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    Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch (Laura400)
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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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    Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones (suzecate)
    suzecate: both novels that revisit Great Expectations
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» See also 170 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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 |
Liked very much. Chose to believe in a kinder ending. I can't recall the specifics but I remember there seemed to be a moment in the text where one quite horrible option was set against a more life giving option and the reader could go either way. ( )
  Je9 | Aug 10, 2021 |
From the book jacket: [A] novel of Dickensian London .. the 1830s. Jack Maggs, a foundling trained in the fine arts of thievery, cruelly betrayed and deported to Australia, has now reversed his fortune – and seeks to fulfill his well-concealed, innermost desire. Returning “home” under threat of execution, he inveigles his way into a household in Great Queen Street, where he’s quickly embroiled in various emotional entanglements – and where he falls under the hypnotic scrutiny of Tobias Oates, a celebrated young writer fascinated by the process of mesmerism and obsessed with the criminal mind.

My reactions
I had heard that this was inspired by and perhaps even a retelling of Dickens’ Great Expectations. I can see similarities, though there is no Miss Havisham, and the focus is not on Pip but on Magwitch.

I did get quite caught up in Jack Maggs’s story and wondered a few times how Carey was going to wrap this up. The plot is definitely convoluted in places, with many twists and turns, though Maggs’s goal remains the same. I enjoyed the relationship between Maggs and Mercy, and the complication of Mercy’s relationship with her employer, Mr Buckle. But I felt Carey took a wrong turn by relying on Tobias Oates and his efforts at hypnotism / magnetism. And the subplot of Toby’s romantic entanglements did little to advance the story (other than providing some motivation for his final journey with Maggs).

Carey’s writing is very atmospheric, and the city of London is explored in some detail, especially the impoverished slums and criminal underbelly. ( )
  BookConcierge | May 23, 2021 |
I really enjoyed this book, and it was a better ending than most of Peter Carey novels I have read so far, but it still left a few things hanging. Overall a fun read. ( )
  curious_squid | Apr 5, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
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.
 

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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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