Review: Peter Carey – The True History of the Kelly Gang

The True History of the Kelly Gang
Peter Carey

This novel is metafictional – Carey has taken the facts and then changed them to suit the story if it had really happened. Instead of Ned Kelly being an unforgivable highway robber, he is a painted more as a lovable modern day Robin Hood in a way. He is set on the pathway to criminality by his mother, trying to support a huge family of Irish children with no support from Ned’s father.
110090The language of this book is hard to get into, as Carey attempts to capture the language of Ned Kelly back in the early days of Australian history. The novel is sectioned according to where Ned’s correspondence comes from. As always, Carey’s writing challenges conventions.

This book is relevant to anyone who has an interest in Ned Kelly. Sure, you aren’t going to get historical facts out of it, but if you have someone who hates Australian literature (and for good reason!) or don’t know very much about our ‘national icon’, then this is a great book to introduce them to it.

This isn’t a novel I would read of my own volition, this was yet another literature text. It was one of the more enjoyable ones to read, surprisingly since it was Australian literature! However, the language usage, although ‘authentic’, was very offputting for me.

If you had to pick a Peter Carey to read out of this and Collected Stories, I’d pick this one over it. Collected Stories gives you a nice variety, but it’s all very deep and meaningful. The Kelly Gang is slightly more lighthearted, and infinitely easier reading.

It is very sensitively written, and doesn’t contain any swearing, though of course Ned comes up with his own adjectival curses! It’s likely suitable for teens, and certainly for adults.

As with many books for my literature classes, I didn’t purchase this book, rather I borrowed it from my local library. I don’t think I would reread for pleasure, although others may feel differently.

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