Thursday, 31 December 2015

OSCAR AND LUCINDA by Peter Carey

This is extraordinarily well written novel about glass manufacture, religion, and Australia. Yet I fail to be able to drum up much enthusiasm for it. For a start, there are a lot of minor characters, who, while uniformly interesting, tend to slow down the narrative. And what narrative there is very much in a depressing direction: Oscar and Lucinda are both gambling addicts, and so from the beginning you struggle to see a happy ending. You feel sorry for them, but you also feel annoyed.

Also, they keep making terrible business decisions, such as investing huge sums in building a glass church for a tiny village in the Outback which is not served by any roads.

In summary, it’s a horrible, cruel book. The author spends 500 pages using all his great talent to get you to care about his large array of characters, and then has it all end badly for each of them, in an array of different ways. Rest assured, Oscar and Lucinda do not end up together. As an added bonus, Oscar even dies. I can only conclude that Carey was born in the First World. One shouldn’t stereotype, but you don’t lay out this kind of misery and despair in art unless your own reality is pretty freaking fantastic.

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