True History of the Kelly Gang
First sentence: By dawn at least half the members of the Kelly gang were badly wounded and it was then the creature appeared from behind police lines.
Reflections: Ned Kelly was an Australian outlaw bushranger in the 1800s. His Irish father was convicted of a crime and sent to Van Diemen's land. The family settled in Australia after his release. Ned was forced into adulthood at an early age, and was sent to be an apprentice to another bushranger at the age of 15. From there he fell into a life of crime, and gained notoriety by consistently eluding capture. However, he also remained fiercely loyal to his large family, especially his mother and brother.
Peter Carey recounts Ned's life story in Ned's own voice, complete with the grammatical anomalies and lack of punctuation that might be expected from a semi-literate young man. The story is compelling and the character development, wonderful. Ned Kelly is a violent criminal, and yet very likeable. I actually found myself cheering him on in his escapades with the police.
True History of the Kelly Gang reminded me of other "outlaw" tales, like the story of Jesse James, or Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. This is not a subject that I'm particularly interested in, and I only read this book because it won the Booker Prize in 2001. I was not disappointed; in fact, I found this book absolutely delightful and difficult to put down. Peter Carey is one of only two authors to win the Booker Prize twice (the other is J. M. Coetzee). Now I can't wait to read his 1988 Booker winner, Oscar and Lucinda. ( )