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Paperback Jack Maggs : A Novel Book

ISBN: 0679760377

ISBN13: 9780679760375

Jack Maggs : A Novel

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Book Overview

The Booker Prize-winning author of Oscar and Lucinda returns to the nineteenth century in an utterly captivating mystery. The year is 1837 and a stranger is prowling London. He is Jack Maggs, an illegal returnee from the prison island of Australia. He has the demeanor of a savage and the skills of a hardened criminal, and he is risking his life on seeking vengeance and reconciliation. Installing himself within the household of the genteel grocer Percy...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Another Peter Carey Gem

This is the third Peter Carey novel I have read in 2004. (The others were "The True History of the Kelly Gang" and "My Life as a Fake".) And while these books have very different settings, characters, and narrative styles, I find myself with the same broad reaction to each. First, I feel that "Jack Maggs", like "Gang" and "Fake", features brilliant writing and a fully involving narrative. For these reasons, I find Carey's novels hard to put down, and I zip through them fascinated, in just a few days. Second, each of these books contains a book within the book. In "Gang", there are Ned Kelly's letters. In "Fake", there is the work of Bob McCorkle, the working class poet and naturalist of genius. In "Jack Maggs", there is the Dickens novel "Great Expectations", with Carey offering modern interpretations of Pip's relationship with Herbert Pocket and Magwitch's obsession with Pip. And certainly, "Maggs" offers some insight into Dickens, who is captured in the character Tobias Oates. Those who love books and writing certainly appreciate this component of a Carey novel. Third, I would say that Carey's books, while great literary pleasures, are also slightly limited. This is because, at least for me, the experiences of his characters never reach beyond the dynamic of the book. Indeed, I have never recognized in these three novels a dynamic or conflict in my own life, which Carey has scrutinized. The books, in other words, seem masterfully self-contained. They are a bit like Joseph Cornell boxes-brilliant, beautiful, and in odd balance. And, they face inward.

Tracks of the cat

Jack Maggs arrives in London carrying a dark secret in his baggage. He's escaped the ferocity of Captain Logan's Moreton Bay penal colony. Maggs also carries evidence that Logan inflicted more whippings than any other camp commandant in the colony. His back betokens applications of the "double cat". Invented in Australia, the multi-stranded lash was used to discipline the lags. If caught, Maggs'll immediately be hanged, but his quest overcomes his fear of the noose. He's seeking someone important in his life. But fate throws impediments in his way. Among them is Peter Carey's appropriation of Charles Dickens as an investigative journalist.Carey's engrossing story is his finest effort. He's created a character that only an author imbued with accounts of transportee [convicts, lags] travails could achieve. The Australian penal colony system was the antithesis of our concept of Victorian morality. Escaped prisoners were rare in Australia - there was nowhere to go. A lag returning to England was unheard of. In any case, the character of every lag underwent a change. They became two people; one the Englishman of a previous life and the other the result of the dehumanizing conditions suffered in that remote continent. Carey captures that duality with finesse and ardor. Driven by his quest, Maggs must adopt a servant's mien, even as his past experiences and cunning born of survival places him above the devious people he encounters daily. He has, after all, been sent to Australia, not for his crimes, but through an unparalleled act of self sacrifice. Maggs must mentally dodge and weave, moving between the worlds of Percy Buckle, Tobias Oates and the street urchin he was before being sent across the seas. Carey's fashioned a tormented figure set in the chaotic venue of 19th Century England.Equating Carey with Charles Dickens is misleading. Dickens was an investigative journalist turned novelist. In a later age, Theodore Roosevelt would brand such people "muckrakers". Carey's isn't reporting what he's observed, driven by championing the poor Dickens divulged to his Victorian readers. Carey's account is pure fiction, no matter how many real characters and true life conditions he imparts. His creative qualities quite set him apart from Dickens. Simply setting this story in mid-19th Century London doesn't limit it to a Dickensian framework. Dickens, his outlook confined to the British Isles, couldn't have written this book. Carey's Australian background brings subtle nuances to Jack in his characterization. It's unlikely that any Anglo-American author could impart the moods Carey achieves in his portrayal of Maggs. This book is a true prize.

Jack Maggs

This is a wonderful piece of fiction, and does everything a good novel should do. You are quickly drawn into the world created by the author--19th century London--you care are about the characters, and the plot has enough twists and turns to keep you interested. Carey takes Dickens' Great Expectations as his starting point, but then creates something totally his own. this would be a wonderful Christmas gift for anyone who is a Dickens fan, anyone who simply knows of the famous Dickens stories, or anyone who enjoys a good book.

Makes me feel happy that English is my mother tongue.

After 'Tristan', I had to go to the author's reading of Jack Maggs in Philadelphia. Carey mentioned that when he was on his way to receive an award in London, the cabbie heard his Australian accent and rudely asked if the "shackles still hurt." That served to whet my appetite for a Magwitch-based novel, and I wasn't disappointed. This guy has a wonderful command of the English language.

Carey rewrites a Dicken's classic & challenges Dicken's too!

This is the first Peter Carey book I have ever read, and it certainly won't be the last. Carey skillfully ( & loosely) bases his latest novel on the Dickens' classic "Great Expectations". But whilst the character of Jack Maggs is obviously based on Dickens' Magwitch, it would be an over-simplification to say that Jack Maggs IS Magwitch. You see, Carey skillfully uses the character of Jack Maggs in order to re-write the character of Magwitch. It's as if Carey felt the need to write his latest novel because of his anger at Dickens' often cold and distant attitude towards Magwitch in "Great Expectations". And Carey is justified in being angry! After all, Carey is Australian and Magwitch was one of the first "Australian" characters in novelistic fiction. But in Dickens' English hands Magwitch is just a pitiable villain. Contrast this with Carey's deeply complex, but ultimately admirable hero, Jack Maggs. Maggs, unlike Magwitch, is someone we Australians can be proud to call an "Australian".
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