Oscar Hopkins is a high-strung preacher's kid with hydrophobia and noisy knees. Lucinda Leplastrier is a frizzy-haired heiress who impulsively buys a glass factory with the inheritance forced on her by a well-intentioned adviser. In the early parts of this lushly written audiobook, author Peter Carey renders the seminal turning points in his protagonists' childhoods as exquisite 19th-century set pieces.
Young Oscar, denied the heavenly fruit of a Christmas pudding by his cruelly stern father, forever renounces his father's religion in favor of the Anglican Church. "Dear God," Oscar prays, "if it be thy will that thy people eat pudding, smite him!" Lucinda's childhood trauma involves a beautiful doll bought by her struggling mother with savings from the jam jar; in a misguided attempt to tame the doll's unruly curls, young Lucinda mutilates her treasure beyond repair. Neither of these coming-of-age stories quite explains how the grownup Oscar and Lucinda each develops a guilty passion for gambling. Oscar plays the horses while at school, and Lucinda, now an orphaned heiress, finds comfort in a game of cards with an odd collection of acquaintances.
When the two finally meet onboard a ship bound for New South Wales, they are bound by their affinity for risk, their loneliness, and their awkwardly blossoming (but unexpressed) mutual affection. Their final high-stakes folly - transporting a crystal palace of a church across (literally) godforsaken terrain - strains plausibility, and events turn ghastly as Oscar plays out his bid for Lucinda's heart. Yet even the unconvincing plot turns are made up for by Carey's rich prose and the tale's unpredictable outcome. Although love proves to be the ultimate gamble for Oscar and Lucinda, the story never strays too far from the terrible possibility that even the most thunderstruck lovers can remain isolated in parallel lives.
©1988 Peter Carey (P)2015 Recorded Books
I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - Salinger ^(;,;)^
“She thought: When we are two, they do not notice us. They think us a match. What wisdom does a mob have? It is a hydra, an organism, stupid or dangerous in much of its behavior, but could it have, in spite of this, a proper judgement about which of its component parts fit best together?”
― Peter Carey, Oscar and Lucinda
A book to love. A book to wade in, submerge into. A novel that tempts one to grab it around the middle and squeeze, even as it dances away like a shadow. It flickers like the quiet, mirrored Doppler effect of water flowing around a pair of swans. It plays coy. It trips backwards. At times, it really IS too much. But I still love/d it. The prose? Beautiful. The story? Magnificent. Worlds of glass, chance, love, passion, obsession, stars-crossed, God, compulsion, sin, materialism and generosity of spirit. Just like a coin spun/tossed/launched at midday into the sky will twist head over tails -- at once both reflecting and in turn blocking the sun-- this book twists between obsessive Oscar and compulsive Lucinda and spun wildly around a whole slew of characters and just spun there, suspended forever, threatening never to come down. And then it did. And it was glorious.
Oscar and Lucinda sheds light upon various facets of the human condition that often go ignored in contemporary literature. These days, certain curious qualities found in characters-- being quietly vulnerable, theologically torn, stubbornly self-defeating, or frustratingly ashamed-- aren't necessarily glamorous enough to grab the average reader's attention. The book unravels slowly, yet each page adds to the richness of the story and all of its players. It blends the Dickensian themes of societal boundaries and the spirit's inner turmoil with the fantastical love and vibrant beauty so often associated with Latin American magic realism. It is a treasure that will play at your heart strings. If you're open to the ambling nature of the tale, you'll soon find yourself surprisingly, and totally, engulfed in the lives and intertwining fates of Oscar and Lucinda.
I am a pretty serious Peter Carey fan so I was eager to see what many critics think his best book would be like. I loved the True History of the Kelley Gang, was disappointed and confused by Parrot and Olivier in America and enchanted by My Life as A Fake. I'm sorry I was led to believe Oscar and Lucinda would somehow rise above these because then I could have appreciated it for what it is, which is pretty good. It is another historical yarn--not a romance even though it has a love story at its centre--built around two flawed, unlikeable characters--one a stiff-necked puritan man and the other a wilful, independent woman--who combine to create a scandalous, eccentric legend in colonial Australia. It was fine, but it went on too long about Oscar's ridiculous trials of conscience, Lucinda's unlikely feminism and meanwhile abandoned its one amusing character, the scoundrely Fish. Still, a good thumping read.
Report Inappropriate Content