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Oscar and Lucinda (1988)

by Peter Carey

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,140682,916 (3.76)448
A rebellious Anglican priest and a teenaged heiress who buys a glass factory in Australia pursue an unlikely romance.
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» See also 448 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 68 (next | show all)
When I read this book I was more depressed than I've ever been. I was on the verge of quitting the Peace Corps and loathing myself for it. Then I read Oscar and Lucinda and ended up completing my service and feeling great! Just kidding.

Even though it didn't improve my circumstances or self-esteem, this book was like a gift. It's a beautifully told, terribly sad story. I'm afraid to read it again because I don't think I'll ever feel as strongly about it as I did in Namibia. ( )
  LibrarianDest | Jan 3, 2024 |
Solid 3.5 It is hard to do a review of this, and many others have done excellent ones already. I was struck by the innate worldliness of Lucinda versus Oscars innocence. They both had traits in common, and in some ways they both didn't "fit" the world they lived in. But they came to it in different aspects. This is particularly illustrated in Oscar's relationship with his father, his attitude to God, and during his trip across Australia to deliver the church and the seduction afterwards. In some ways it is a matter of depth which is embodied by the motifs woven through the story (water, glass, faith) as well as the characters themselves. there are many themes which deeply weave through this story and make it a rich tale.
( )
  Kiri | Dec 24, 2023 |
Confessional: I felt no affinity for the timid boy with flaming red hair who was afraid of everything. I felt no affinity for the wealthy heiress with the gambling problem. To be honest, I felt no affinity for Oscar and Lucinda the couple or the novel. It dragged on and on. For the most part, I found it was a tirade about the human condition.
As an aside, there are strange details all throughout Oscar and Lucinda. Even though I was bored most of the time, I still am curious about the significance and role of cauliflower to Lucinda when she was on the boat. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Nov 30, 2023 |
In my opinion, this was a horribly written book AND movie! Almost killed 3 birds with one stone, that would have included myself. On top of the boring story line, characters seemed to pop in and out at random times out of thin air. At other times, I couldn’t even follow his logic in the story. There really was nothing in this written work that gave me the idea that this was even 19th century Australia except for the fact that he threw in an 1800 number a few times and mentioned a few towns in Australia. Everybody knows Australians have accents and their own way of talking. This should have been included in the dialog.

The premise of the story: Oscar Hopkins was a small, mousy, white skinned, wild and unkempt red head, and afraid of everything, especially afraid of water. He was the son of Theophilus, a Plymouth Brethren, who wrestled with his father's rigid conservative beliefs that most things enjoyable in life were sinful. He believed God told him to leave his father, and to move into their neighbor’s home to become their servant and learn the ways of the Anglicans, the Church of England. But, he got caught up in gambling on horses as a way of feeding himself and paying his bills through life, which he told himself must be from God because he didn't splurge or waste his extra winnings on himself. In fact, in his attempt to prove his allegance to God, he refrained from hot showers or warm fires and justified to himself that if we are to gamble our very lives, our mortal souls, to the fact that there is truly a God and live our lives for Him to enter into heaven without ever seeing Him, then gambling for money to sustain that life was not a sin. Oscar finally did travel to New South Wales, at age 22, in 1864, the author writes, and finally meets Lucinda on the same ship headed to New South Wales. Lucinda purchased a glassworks factory, and she had also become addicted to gambling, but with cards. She was a woman in the 1800’s owning her own business and playing cards with the men. So, she had no friends, only an unjustified bad reputation, and was a very lonely woman until Oscar came along. Because of their suspicious friendship, Oscar (author says he's now age 21) loses his clergyman status and finds himself living with Lucinda for support and working as a clerk, mixing ink. [NOTE: See how difficult it is to follow the author. Oscar arrives in Australia earlier in the story at age 22, and now, several years later, he's 21?] They were platonic friends until she told him of her dream to build a glass church. His reaction, “It is like a kennel for God’s angels”, surprised her and a spark was ignited. He would prove his love to her by delivering this church to another clergyman, whom he “believed” she loved. He kept his word, suffered greatly, but God had the last say. Oscar went down locked inside the glass church and drowned….one of his greatest fears in life, but not before he asked God for forgiveness for all the people he had wronged in his life, including Lucinda, who he would never see again.

Movie: Oscar & Lucinda (1998), starring Ralph Fiennes & Cate Blanchette, was just as slow as the book. They each received a 1 star out of 5 for pure boredom! ( )
  MissysBookshelf | Aug 27, 2023 |
This book is wonderfully written but I didn't find it engaging enough to be a favourite. The two obstacles for me were that the characters were not sufficiently relatable and the historical revelations have become a bit old hat. Is it possible for a book from 1988 to be dated? This feels like an early, stuttering attempt to acknowledge in fiction our admission, as a nation, that the land we live on was invaded, not discovered and that the invasion was violent, merciless and laced with deception. It also seems that the brutality of Australia's convict past and the willingness to show the grime and muck of historical times have been too well covered to be revelatory.

And the characters? Oscar Hopkins is too one-dimensional to sustain a full-length novel. He might be fun to encounter in a novella, but the way he views everything through the lens of his evangelical Christian beliefs eventually becomes grating. He is also made less sympathetic by crucial moments throughout the story. The biggest betrayal for me was finding out that his father's prose when describing nature is beautiful and rich. How am I to love a character who lets himself down so completely as Oscar did when he deserted his father? Lucinda Leplastrier has a little more depth, but she is so adrift and makes just enough appalling decisions that I lost patience with her before halfway.

Nevertheless, I persisted and I was glad I did. The final third is very rewarding, with a sense of purpose and peril that the earlier sections lacked.

Carey's prose is precise, fast-paced and warm throughout the novel. There is wit in abundance and occasionally it spills out into full-on humour and I found myself laughing out loud on a few occasions. This whole thing is a preposterous mess, perfectly executed, like a tray of rocky road made with confectionery snakes, glace cherries and crystalised ginger that somehow manages to be perfect. ( )
  robfwalter | Jul 31, 2023 |
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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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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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A rebellious Anglican priest and a teenaged heiress who buys a glass factory in Australia pursue an unlikely romance.

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