Love him or loathe him, Ned Kelly has been at the heart of Australian culture and identity since he and his gang were tracked down in bushland by the Victorian police and came out fighting, dressed in bulletproof iron armour made from farmers' ploughs.
Historians still disagree over virtually every aspect of the eldest Kelly boy's brushes with the law. Did he or did he not shoot Constable Fitzpatrick at their family home? Was he a lawless thug or a noble Robin Hood, a remorseless killer or a crusader against oppression and discrimination? Was he even a political revolutionary, an Australian republican channelling the spirit of Eureka?
Peter FitzSimons, best-selling chronicler of many of the great defining moments and people of this nation's history, is the perfect person to tell this most iconic of all Australian stories. From Kelly's early days in Beveridge, Victoria, in the mid-1800s, to the Felons' Apprehension Act, which made it possible for anyone to shoot the Kelly gang, to Ned's appearance in his now-famous armour, prompting the shocked and bewildered police to exclaim ‘He is the devil!' and ‘He is the bunyip!', FitzSimons brings the history of Ned Kelly and his gang exuberantly to life, weighing in on all of the myths, legends and controversies generated by this compelling and divisive Irish-Australian rebel.
©2013 Peter FitzSimons 2013. (P)2013 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
Eureka is a great tale, a rollicking story with momentum that sweeps the reader along to the climactic explosion of violence.' (The Australian)
Classics, history, historical fiction, marketing, Napoleonic stuff and of course 'Boys own Adventure'. This is my bent. Occasional self help as well.
First of all I don't like this authors (Peter FitzSimons) style of writing or history. Second, the narrator Richard Aspel is dreadful. Thirdly, there are better books than this one on the telling of the Ned Kelly Gang incidents.
Peter FitzSimons isn't a very good historian, but he does try. He tends to take a side and skew the telling. Don't get me wrong, he can write and his newspaper column is one of my favourite Sunday readings, but his telling of history is not good. He tells a story, that some might like to listen or read but not me.
Richard Aspel seems to make every sentence a drama filled statement, even when it isn't. I don't think he could read a dozen words without stopping which makes the continuity hard to listen to. By the end of the book, I just wanted the whole thing finished with. It was hard to get through this book, mainly due to his narration.
If the epilog had introduced the book, without the what happen to the characters after Edward Kelly departed us (spoiler alert) this book might have been forgivable, but it is too one sided, too 'the truth is in the telling' and too sensational.
I have listen and read some other of Peter FitzSimons books and as an author, he doesn't impress me, as a media personality, I like him, as a historian I am not happy with. This book was a personal quest for Mr FitzSimons who describes it as "a big boofy bearded guy writing about a big boofy bearded guy". (Not exact quote). If you like Mr FitzSimons story telling, then buy the book and read it and skip Richard Aspel narration. If you want to read better books on the history, then go to the back and see which books Mr FitzSimons has used for reference and research.
Not the best book on Ned Kelly
The majority of books detailing Ned Kelly’s exploits usually present a sympathetic view of the man. Even people who know the major history behind the Kelly Gang see him as an Australian hero. While this book seems to start as yet another of those, it gradually evens out to a neutral stance. This is good, for make no mistake, Ned Kelly was a killer and relished being an outlaw. Fitzsimons presents all the well-detailed facts, supported by multiple testimonies of Kelly himself and the people who encountered him.
The book is broken up into four parts: Ned’s early life, his early crimes and the Stringybark Creek murders, the last stand at the siege of Glenrowan, and his trial and final days in prison. The story is paced well, embellished with Fitzsimons’ usual flair and narrated fairly by Aspel. The siege of Glenrowan is particularly fascinating and even Ned’s final days in prison are foreboding and poignant.
The book’s accounts allow the reader to make up their own mind about what kind of man Ned Kelly was. But no one can deny he was a victim of the harsh times and circumstances within which he grew up. It was a time that pitted rich squatters against the poor selectors (the Kellys among many others). The rich got richer and the poor struggled to put food on the table. These conditions led Kelly to early thievery and eventually onto bigger crimes. This doesn’t excuse his deeds, but it does make you understand why he did the things he did.
Such is life.
The level of detail Peter FitzSimons has researched, offers multiple perspectives of Ned Kelly's story that brings his personality and journey to life. A wonderful historic journey.
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