Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang

I came across Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang a while back as I was talking about next reads with friends, and someone said to me: “Hey! You like westerns! Read the True History of the Kelly Gang.” That was years ago. I don’t really like westerns, and have no idea how I seem to have built this western fanatic image for myself among my friends. In fact, the only western I’d read before this infamous conversation was Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses, which I happened to enjoy but which hadn’t made me grow particularly fond of the genre. I did stumble upon the True History of the Kelly Gang some time after this episode, bought it and placed it on a shelf to rest for the next year or so. Which brings me to present time, when I finally forced myself to pick it up, determined once and for all to see what all this western craziness is all about.

Peter Carey’s Booker Prize (2001) recipient novel depicts the adventures of notorious Australian outlaw gang, the Kellys. The story is narrated by the gang’s leader, Ned, who is famous for having become a national hero despite his history of crime. I knew close to nothing about the Kelly gang, and I happened to really enjoy how Ned’s life story begins with accounts of his desolate childhood, and depicts a gradual transformation into a bushranger and cold blooded killer.

Ned Kelly’s voice is unique and is what made me fall in love with this novel. I was not for a second put back by his imperfect grammar, which in my point of view only gives authenticity to his speech. Carey’s characters are beautifully drawn and their motivations believable, and I found myself hearing their voices days after I finished reading the book. His writing style is exceptional, and though some may perceive it as somewhat challenging in True History of the Kelly Gang, it’s made me, the oh so reluctant western reader, unable to put it down.

Following this wonderful experience, I’ve recently tried my luck with yet another western, Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers, which I’ll be reviewing in the next couple of days.

Amazon link

Peter Carey, True History of the Kelly Gang
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4.7
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