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Carey, Peter

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(Australian, 1943– )

Carey's books range from magic realism and fantasy to historical. He writes in beautifully simple language, with great clarity. Begin with his Booker Prize-winning Oscar and Lucinda (1988); the early sections of this huge book, describing Oscar's childhood, read like a nineteenth-century novel, but when Oscar—an Anglican clergyman who is addicted to gambling—goes to Australia in 1859 his story becomes stranger. There he meets the wealthy Lucinda who has just bought a glass factory. When he sees the model of an all-glass church which she has commissioned, they fall in love and share an obsession to build a glass church in the outback. Oscar and Lucinda are a prickly awkward pair of innocents whose thoughts and feelings keep you glued to the page. The Unususal Life of Tristan Smith (1994) is set in a world with its own culture and history (often explained in helpful footnotes) and its own politics—revealed through the hero's life in third world Efica and his travels in imperialistic Voorstand. Rarely has fantasy/allegory/satire (and this is a blend of all three) been used to such powerful effect. Jack Maggs (1997), set in London in 1837, concerns a deported convict who has returned from Australia before the end of his sentence, to meet his adoptive son. It tells a satisfyingly complicated, well-paced story from the interwoven viewpoints of a Dickensian range of characters. Carey turns to history again in his True History of the Kelly Gang (2001, Booker Prize), creating an extraordinary first person voice for the famous bushranger Ned Kelly. Innocence and lack of education blend with deadpan humour, joyous optimism, and razor-sharp intelligence to make up Carey's most brilliant fictional character yet.

Tim Winton, Patrick White, Thomas Keneally. See AUSTRALIA, MAGIC REALISM  JR

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