September 16th, 2008
Peter Carey remains one of my most adored living authors. I count some of his books among my all-time favourites (Oscar and Lucinda; Theft; Jack Maggs). His latest, His Illegal Self, isn’t at the top of my Peter Carey goodies list, but it’s not at the bottom either (that honour belongs to the Ned Kelly book that [to date] remains unfinished). His talents are considerable so even a mediocre book by Carey is hands and feet better than an excellent book by a lesser writer.
The story of a young boy who’s kidnapped by a woman who isn’t his mother and spirited away to the wilds of Australia, His Illegal Self is an arresting story. I think it’s just not entirely believable. As a result of his mother’s (and father’s to boot) illegal activities as political radical protesters, Che (as he’s called) lives with his posh mother on Park Avenue, spending much of their time at a summer home outside the city. He’s only eight (I think) when the action begins and yearns for his mother who remains a distant memory locked away in his mind. When Dial shows up and kidnaps him from his grandmother under the guise of taking him to see his mother, everything that could possibly go wrong does.
As I said above, I did find the plot somewhat implausible; there are far too many nefarious characters in one place who consistently roadblock the way back to a legal existence for both Che and Dial. The voice of the story sometimes comes across as kind of alienating and more than once I found myself backtracking just so I could be sure I knew what was going on. Yet somehow, despite some little bits of confusion here or there, I did find the novel to be a swift read.
READING CHALLENGES: While I think I’ve already done Australia for Around the World in 52 Books (which I am so very far behind it its almost criminal), Carey hails from there so I’ll add it to the list.