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Oscar and Lucinda (1988)

by Peter Carey

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3,781582,454 (3.77)409
Set on board an ocean liner travelling to Australia in 1864, this novel is both a love story and an historical tour de force that relates the developing romance between Oscar Hopkins, an Oxford seminarian, and Lucinda Leplastrier, a Sydney heiress with a fascination for glass.
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» See also 409 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
Full of lovely prose, this book had me thinking "I've found one of my next read-everything-by-this-author books" until he kind of lost me with the glass church escapade and the fairly sudden twist. I suppose there must've been a pretty important reason (something about fickle fate or the pointlessness of slavish devotion to faith?) Carey went in this direction with the book, but it read to me almost like the plots of two books grafted together, and it was disappointing in the end, if still beautifully lyrical throughout. ( )
  dllh | Jan 6, 2021 |
Ugh, hated the writing style and the story itself didn't live up to the promise of the book jacket blurb. I was bored to tears and had to put it down before finishing it.
  JustZelma | Dec 20, 2020 |
I'm reading all the Booker Prize winners. Follow me at: www.methodtohermadness.com

Well. That was a struggle. (A whole week is a long time for me to get through a book of this size.) I had only the vaguest memories of the movie, and anticipated a pleasant read. I am willing to put a lot of the blame on myself, distracted by the transition from teaching to summer vacation, and a visit from my lovely mother-in-law, but this book just did not hold my attention. I was grateful for the short chapters that allowed me to take frequent breaks.

Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda is the story of two originals, misfits who simply cannot fit in anywhere but with each other. Oscar is the son of an English minister in a strict Quaker-like sect, and Lucinda the daughter of bohemians in Australia. They each become gamblers, of very different sorts, and meet on an ocean liner. Their ensuing romance is painfully awkward and tragic, and hinges, of course, on a bet.

I didn’t really start enjoying the book until about three quarters of the way through, when events started accelerating. However, I was put off when characters started popping up and making major contributions to the plot without my feeling that I really got to know them.

Again, I’m willing to admit that I was not in the best frame of mind to appreciate this book, but I found its rambling, roundabout (and intentionally misleading) plot disappointing.
( )
  stephkaye | Dec 14, 2020 |
Peter Carey is an author that I generally like rather than love. He is, of course, a very clever author, but a lot of the time I find him a bit too cold and intellectual for my tastes. Much of the time I am able to overlook this problem in his work - I enjoyed Theft, for instance, as well as his modified retellings of other works such as Jack Maggs (Great Expectations) and Parrot and Olivier in America (Tocqueville's Democracy in America). There is one work of Carey's, however, that I am able to state without reservation that I love, and that is Oscar and Lucinda.

It's not hard to explain why this is such a great novel. Its primary strength lies in its two main characters, Oscar Hopkins and Lucinda Leplastrier, who are simply two of the best, most complex characters ever dreamed up in literary history.

Oscar is the son of a stern minister, a quixotic true believer whose beliefs, instead of leading him into orthodoxy, take him straight into the sinful world of gambling. That's not how Oscar sees it, of course: drawing heavily on Pascal and Spinoza, Carey represents Oscar's version of theodicy as a wager as absolutely genuine. Naturally, Oscar is a constant outsider - at Oxford he gains the nickname "Odd Bod" - who never fits in, but whose authenticity and sincerity draws the reader's sympathy.

Lucinda, meanwhile, is the daughter of an ardent feminist, a forceful personality who nonetheless feels guilt about the large fortune she inherits following the death of her parents. Torn between this guilt and fiscal responsibility, she gambles compulsively, hoping that her losses can "purify" her from the stain of her money. One particularly large gamble she makes is to buy a glass factory with her new inheritance, a business that she picks at random.

Carey narrates the story of Oscar and Lucinda's convergent fortunes from the perspective of their great-grandson, who reflects repeatedly on the various contingencies that had to fall into place in order to make possible his birth. Indeed, it is this notion of contingency, of the randomness of the universe and the human response to it, that forms the central theme of this ambitious novel. It is no surprise, then, that its two central protagonists are both ardent gamblers, with styles that complement each other: Oscar gambles to win, but never for his own personal gain; Lucinda gambles to lose, with her emotions as her underlying motive.

It was such a pleasure to return to Oscar and Lucinda after so many years - I last read it when I was an undergraduate - and rediscover just how enjoyable and wise a novel it is. ( )
  vernaye | May 23, 2020 |
Gambling and glass and a love story.
  brakketh | Sep 5, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (35 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Peter Careyprimary authorall editionscalculated
Crossley, StevenNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Le Tan, PierreCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Syrier, PaulTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Epigraph
Dedication
for Alison Summers with all my love
First words
If there was a bishop, my mother would have him to tea.
Quotations
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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Set on board an ocean liner travelling to Australia in 1864, this novel is both a love story and an historical tour de force that relates the developing romance between Oscar Hopkins, an Oxford seminarian, and Lucinda Leplastrier, a Sydney heiress with a fascination for glass.

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