Oscar Hopkins grew up in southern England in the mid-1800s, under his father’s iron rule. As a teenager he left his father’s house to become an Anglican minister. He was an introverted and backward young man, called “Odd Bod” by his seminary colleagues. Surprisingly, he befriended Ian Wardley-Fish, a bit of a rake who introduced Oscar to betting on horse races. At the same time, Lucinda Leplastrier grew up in Australia, and came into a sizeable inheritance as she approached adulthood. She bought a glass factory and made her way as an independent business woman. She also became involved with a social group that spent considerable time gambling on cards. Returning from a visit to England, Lucinda met Oscar, who was travelling on the same ship, having decided to take the gospel to New South Wales. Eventually these two empty, dysfunctional people discovered their shared addiction to gambling, and a relationship of sorts blossomed. Their addiction took a bizarre turn when Lucinda bet her fortune on Oscar’s ability to transport a church, made completely of glass, to a remote location in the colony. The novel concludes with this adventure and its consequences.
Peter Carey’s Booker prize-winning novel works both as a love story and an adventure set in an untamed part of the world. The characters of Lucinda and Oscar are well-developed, and the “supporting cast” is equally colorful. The plot gets a bit fantastic at times, and I never quite understood the source of attraction between Oscar and Lucinda. Nevertheless, from the very beginning I was caught up in their lives, eager to learn when and how their paths crossed, and even more curious about the story’s conclusion. I found Carey’s other Booker winner, True History of the Kelly Gang
, more enjoyable and better written, but would still recommend Oscar and Lucinda
as a very worthwhile read. ( )I read this book for the Celebrate the Author challenge: Peter Carey was born May 7, 1943.