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Paperback His Illegal Self Book

ISBN: 030727649X

ISBN13: 9780307276490

His Illegal Self

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Format: Paperback

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Book Overview

Seven-year-old Che Selkirk was raised in isolated privilege by his New York grandmother. The son of radical student activists at Harvard in the late sixties, Che has grown up with the hope that one day his parents will come back for him. So when a woman arrives at his front door and whisks him away to the jungles of Queensland, he is confronted with the most important questions of his life: Who is his real mother? Did he know his real father? And...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

I Dug This Book

Each chapter is a jigsaw puzzle piece and when put together, the portrait is complex, engaging, terrifying, and ultimately satisfying. There is a challenge to the narrative, like Carey expects the reader to fill in the blanks, and thus brings him into the story actively. A sense of palpable dread hangs over the entire affair as the reader invests emotionally into the fate of the mother (who is no mother) and the son. This is a terrific, fierce novel.

A Story of Love and Flight

In this marvelous story, a boy named Che goes from a pampered loving life to a rugged loving life. He learns to adapt himself to a life on the lam and a cast of eccentric characters. During Che's journey the reader is treated to sumptuous descriptions of the abundance of nature. In all, a most satisfying read, a book with characters that will linger in your mind long after you finish the last page.


HIS ILLEGAL SELF (HIS) is my fifth Peter Carey novel. (The others were Jack Maggs: A Novel, True History of the Kelly Gang, My Life as a Fake, and Theft. They're all terrific.) While the stories in these five novels are very different, the narratives are alike in one respect: Carey establishes his stories quickly; then, his narratives become totally engrossing sprints. While the novels are spotted with wonderful metaphors and lyricism, they mostly have great pace. They are riveting rushes--like the beautiful Australian bird in HIS that Carey captures jetting over a remote stream. There is little navel gazing in these novels. Another element in some of Carey's books is the offbeat, somewhat quirky, dynamic of his narratives. To make my point, think of Philip Roth, sort of Carey's narrative opposite, who brings the awesome power of his analysis to the subjects of aging in Everyman or the relation of the ill and elderly to youth in Exit Ghost. In those books, Roth takes common experiences head on. But Carey? Well, he finds a twist so that the situation he explores does not require power so much as narrative talent. Carey's approach to the familiar is subtle. In HIS, Carey's starting point is SDS in New York in the early 1970s. Basically, a young woman and associate professor, Dial, without any malice aforethought, goes underground with a boy, Che, whose mother is SDS and whose grandmother lives on Park Avenue. Gradually, Carey unfolds this story so that what appears like a capricious disaster--the abduction of the boy--makes perfect sense. Then, the climax of the novel turns on an element in Dial's character, which emerges with angry clarity in a final conversation with Che's grandmother. It's a fascinating story, told like a mystery, that comes together with logic and power in the final few pages. Bravo Peter! Of course, the dynamic driving some of Peter Carey's novels is not quirky at all. For example, it's easy to get the story of Ned Kelly, growing up poor and despised Irish in Australia. It's easy to get the story of the Boone brothers in Theft, since the action is driven by love and ambition. But HIS is one of Carey's subtler books and this reader had to mull its issues when finished. Then, I got it. HIS is Carey's take on something we all understand: Fool for Love.

Love Notes from the Underground.

Australian novelist, Peter Carey, is perhaps best known for Oscar and Lucinda (1988) and True History of the Kelly Gang (2001), both of which the Booker Prize. (In fact, Carey is only one of two writers to win the Booker Prize twice, the other being J. M. Coetzee.) Except for several of his hard-to-find novels which are no longer in print (e.g., Bliss), I have read all of Carey's work. His Illegal Self is Carey's most recent novel since Theft (2006). Written from the implied perspective of a little boy, it is among his best novels. Set in 1972, it tells the story of seven-year-old Che Selkirk, who lives with his grandmother (who prefers to call him "Jay") in New York City until he is abducted by a young woman, Anna Xenos, who calls herself Dial. ("She had wild hair but she was not wild and no matter what Time magazine said about her so-called generation she had only made love to one man in her life.") Che wants to believe Dial (an S.D.S. goddess) is the radical-activist mother who abandoned him as an infant during the politically tumultuous `60s, and who is now among America's most wanted domestic terrorists. Dial lacks the courage to disenchant the "lovely little boy" with his "little boy legs, falling socks, banged-up shin and expensive sweater" from the "dark strength of the misunderstanding." Soon Che and Dial are outlaws en route to a primitive commune, The Crystal Community, "up a dirt road" in the Australian outback, "at the asshole of the earth," where they encounter feral hippie, Trevor Dobbs. The resulting tale is mesmerizing, particularly as told through the eyes of the memorable child Che, who proves wise beyond his years. Carey recaptures all the magic of childhood through the young boy he has created. Ultimately, Carey's novel is a dual love story about a boy longing for his parents and a young woman's unexpected love for the boy. His Illegal Self is poignant and highly recommended. G. Merritt

A Must Read

Carey's beautiful new novel is about Che, a boy being raised by his New York society grandmother in the '70's. Che longs to know his parents, dissidents forced underground by their antiwar activities. When he's kidnapped by Anna (aka Dial), Che thinks she's his mom, and Anna, acting on orders from his mother, doesn't correct him. The two flee to Australia's outback where Anna belives they're "off the grid". Carey's stark language imbues the narrative with suspense, and his characters feel absolutely real. He's crafted an unconventional love story that's a striking portrait of the counterculture's dregs. This is a great book. The story keeps the readers interest and makes it impossible to put down. You come to love all of the characters, whose decisions dont always make sense at first but seem to work themselves out by the end of the story - Highly reccomended
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