True History of the Kelly Gang, by Peter Carey

January 8, 2012 at 20:30 (Adventure, Book Reviews, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Poorly Rated Books) (, , , )


This fictionalised diary of outlaw Ned Kelly is a long and sprawling account of misadventure and persecution and occasional thrilling clashes with the authorities; although much too occasional to continue to hold the reader’s attention. Peter Carey deserves approbation for his brave decision to write this book entirely from Kelly’s perspective and in Kelly’s own hand: that is, sans-grammar, sans-punctuation and sans-complex phraseology. This decision might well appeal to a reader with a low threshold for the willing suspension of disbelief, or fans of William Faulkner’s similarly unreadable mishmash*, but it makes True History of the Kelly Gang deucedly difficult to read. There are times when it feels much more like a struggling middle-school student’s creative writing homework than a serious novel.

“…my dear daughter you are presently too young to understand a word I write but this history is for you and will contain no lie may I burn in Hell if I speak false.”

-True History of the Kelly Gang

So what of its story? Interesting, but neither original enough nor clever enough to make this book worth struggling through. An untoward proportion of this book is written as monologue, and while monologue has its place, it is very difficult to follow the inner thoughts of an imbecile. Any sense of the history of Australia’s infamous gang or the majesty of setting are as lost on the reader as they are lost on the troglodyte who is monosyllabically telling the story. Certainly not worth picking up. Skimming through Ned Kelly’s Wikipedia page would reveal a more coherent, more interesting and probably more factual narrative.

*William Faulkner was a rambling chaotic windbag. No apologies will be forthcoming.

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