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Oscar and Lucinda (1988)

by Peter Carey

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3,930612,580 (3.76)424
Set onboard 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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    wonderlake: Both Oscar and Ripley are afraid of water
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» See also 424 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
The story of two young people who travel to Australia, one a son of a fundamentalist turn Anglican and the other a young heiress. Theirs is a romance without satisfaction, their lives are one of ruin. The novel partly takes its inspiration from Father and Son, the autobiography of the English poet Edmund Gosse. Both Oscar & Lucinda have a vice; gambling. The novel won various awards including The Booker in 1988. Religion entangled with superstition leads Oscar on a wild journey as he entangles chance with God's voice. I did not know this; Australia is known as the "lucky land" and Aussie's like to gamble. ( )
  Kristelh | Aug 3, 2022 |
Deep dive into life in 19th century England and Australia, through the very adult "romance" of Oscar and Lucinda. Oscar's mother died, and he was raised by his Father, a devoted Plymouth Brethren preacher and marine biologist in Devon. The struggles between faith and science are lifted from what stares all of us in the face, this fecund world (and from Edmund Gosse's autobiographical 'Father and Son', published 1907). Lucinda was Australian born of English colonists. Her parents died of accident and disease, leaving Lucinda an orphan but with land wealth.

The mix of religion, wealth, and science in the 19th century Empire is a heaving cothurnus of temptation, doubt, opportunity and guilt. Oscar and Lucinda meet by chance--literally attracted like the Hosts of Heaven in Book of Job, to a side bet. Carey's descriptions of people and countryside are delicious and satisfying. And verb tenses be damned--to wit:

Dennis was "a mostly happy man. And he soon became nostalgic for the time he could sit reading alone in his study, or feel his long, athletic form being admired as he stretched across the pleasant slippery chintz surfaces of Mrs Wilson's armchairs. And even if there were moments--like this one--when he could sit alone in his study, it was not the same as hitherto." [176]

The author spins the tale from an improbable and thread-bare plot--two awkwardly socialized "orphans" meet and fall in love on a steamship. Fascinating lore and history are layered into this scheme and overlaid with orthogontic tensions of ugly sexism racism classism, and the sincerely held beliefs that hypocrites imagine they must cling to. Carrie breaks up the density of metaphors with short chaptering--110 chapters often labelled with Biblical allusions: "Job and Judas", "The Messiah", "Magdalen", and a cunningly contextual quote from Book of Job, "Who can Open the Doors of his Face?" [Book of Job 41:15]

I just realized an eponymous film was made, loosely based. Starring the selective Cate Blanchette and Ralph Fiennes. ( )
  keylawk | Jul 13, 2022 |
Two very disparate characters, each out of place in their worlds, struggle to assert themselves in the face of conventions and establishments that don't really understand them. Thrown together in an improbable, quixotic project, they misunderstand each other's needs and desires. The characterization of both the central duo and the side players is bold and psychologically genuine. ( )
  brianstagner | Feb 8, 2022 |
Not my cup of tea ( )
  KarlaWinters | Nov 19, 2021 |
Clear writing drew me along. Liked our main characters. Ghastly expedition into the bush with the sadistic leader. (Colonialism = bad! despite the relentless sell of this message I am sure it's based on perfectly awful historical facts.)I may have skimmed a bit to get to the end. Which was satisfying despite all the suffering. ( )
  Je9 | Aug 10, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (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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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 onboard 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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