2015: 6.  Oscar and Lucinda

"If there was a bishop, my mother would have him to tea."

Oscar and Lucinda, Peter Carey

Well, it took me forever to finish this book.  Not because I didn't like it - I did - but because it was my commuting book, and I was out sick, and then I was driving to work, and then I couldn't get a seat, and the long of the short of it is, I've been reading this since August and finally put it to bed last week.  But I'm glad I did, because I liked it a bit - even though the ending made me throw up my hands in anguish.

Anyway, it's the story of two oddballs, Oscar, a scrawny and strange Anglican minster, and Lucinda, a headstrong teenage heiress, who are brought together in the wilds of Australia through their mutual love of gambling.  Outcast by society, they end up building something quite fantastic together.  Hate to say more, because the plot matters here.  But what I will say is that the book, which is definitely written as a Dickensian/Victorian homage is killer.  Won the Booker and deserved it.  The writing is great, and the characters of Oscar and Lucinda are so real - so strange, and particular, but human that you won't be disappointed if you read it.

That being said, I do have a complaint. The beginning of the book tells us about Oscar and Lucinda's young lives, and is written at a leisurely, three-volume novel pace.  That continues as they slowly become acquainted, and their lives are intertwined.  And then they embark on this huge tremendous project that pulls the rest of the novel together.  But that project, which is epic and interesting only takes up about the last third of the book.  And I felt it should have been treated with the same epic scope of the build-up of who Oscar and Lucinda are.  It must have been purposefully written this way, but I don't see why the end didn't get the leisurely Victorian treatment of the first part.  I rarely say this, but this book should have been 100 pages longer.  

SPOILERS FOLLOW: To clarify, even if Carey wanted to shock us abruptly at the very end (with the reveal of the ancestry of the narrator), the trip with the glass church just seemed truncated - that journey should have taken up as much as all that had preceeded it. I felt like we spent more time on the ship back to Australia than on the glass trip's voyage, which just felt off.  I loved reading the book, but the end disappoined.

Categories: Booker Prize Project

© Carrie Dunsmore 2017