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Publisher's Summary

Man Booker Prize, Fiction, 2001

Ned Kelly's name resonates in Australia the same way the name Jesse James does in America. Was he a crusading folk hero or murderous horse thief and bank robber? Who was the real Ned Kelly? As the impoverished son of an Irish convict, Kelly was cheated, lied to, and abused by the English. Committed to fighting back against oppression, Kelly and his gang of outlaws eluded police for nearly two years. Brilliantly novelized by Peter Carey, the story of the Kelly Gang unfolds from a series of 13 compassionate letters written, while on the run, by Kelly to his infant daughter. Building from this historical legend and testing our sympathies, Carey crafts a deeply humanistic piece of historical fiction, a tale of injustice and violence.

©2000 Peter Carey (P)2001 Recorded Books

Critic Reviews

"No reader will be left unmoved by this dramatic tale....A novel that teems with energy, suspense and the true story of a memorable protagonist." ( Publishers Weekly)
"Historical fiction doesn't get much better than this." ( School Library Journal)
"Packed with incident, alive with comedy and pathos...contains pretty much everything you could ask of a novel." ( The New York Times Book Review)

What listeners say about True History of the Kelly Gang

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant and Poetic

The True History of the Kelly Gang is, hands down, the best recorded book I have ever heard. Peter Carey is truly a gifted writer whose ear for 19th Century Australian Irish "selector" dialogue is amazing. The reader, Giancarlo Negroponte, is a masterful and talented voice actor. I knew nothing about Ned Kelly before listening to this book and have been inspired to learn more about Australia's national hero. I did not want this book to end and can still hear Ned Kelly's voice in my head. Carey's literary, fictionalized version of the Kelly Gang's story achieves something truly remarkable. It conveys, in the way that only exceptional poetry and prose can, the essence of how the heritage of transportation formed the unique Australian identity and of how Ned Kelly in particular embodied the belief that something good could come of convicts.

12 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Great book, Great narrator

The book is lively, amusing and interesting. The narrator is the best I've heard. His reading captures the book's diverse characters in a clear and distinctive manner without seeming actorish.

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

An 'adjectival' masterpiece of 'effing' prose.

I 'effing' love Peter Carey's prose. An 'adjectival' masterpiece of historical fiction and myth-making.

13 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

beautiful writing, great story

Peter Carey read a letter that was written by the real 19th century outlaw, Ned Kelly (known as the Jesse James of Australia) and then fashioned an imagined biography from that voice and that time. It is a wonderful story, a wonderful piece of writing.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

More Amazing Than Fiction

Although the author did a fantastic job of fictionalizing the story surrounding the true story of Ned Kelly, it's true aspects of the story that are most amazing. The fact that every step of Ned's life were guided by despiration makes for real page turner. The Aussie accents take a bit getting used to, but I learned a lot of colorful phrases and a lot about Aussie history and culture.

2 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great story and narration

The author and narrator combine to create a completely engrossing world and character. It's remarkable how much joy and hope these characters make within the limits of a tough world. (I loved "adjectival" and "cove" and the few other slang terms that are part of the vividness of the story.)

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Historical Fiction done well!!

Fact based fiction, as the writer tells you in the interview at the end. Great story, well writen and narrated. As one who has listened to well over 300 audio books, this is in the top 40 or so. Well worth the money. Listen and Enjoy!

7 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars

Gosh, was hoping for so much more

The Australian Jesse James and Abe Lincoln all rolled into one; perhaps those with more knowledge of the tale will enjoy this book; it is "historical fiction;" the known facts are all in there, but the rest (childhood, Ned Kelly's relationship with his mother, etc.), are made up. So it is sort of an interesting psychological profile of the man who dared to stand up to the English; and to take on the corruption which resulted from Australia's beginnings as an English penal colony. But in the end, you don't really know why he did it; even with all the psychological profiling. So, what was the point of all that?

The work is supposedly based on writings by Kelly, newly discovered. And, in fact, some of his writings were discovered in the late 1980's. Perhaps some judicious abridgement would help this book, but I struggled to finish it.

The narration is ok; but it is troubled by some repetition of the word "adjectival" . . . reminiscent of the use of "expletive deleted" in the Nixon tapes. Even if that is how they really talked back then, it was a bit much.

16 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

An Almost-Lost Voice Recovered

I expected I would love this one – I mean, it’s a Booker Prize winner and it deals with a gang of Australian outlaws – so it’s mildly disappointing to say I merely liked it very much. On the one hand, I admire what Carey is doing with this novel. He’s taking what we know of the historical Ned Kelly and wrapping a story around it. We get an individual whose frustrations and passions lead him to quasi-insurrection, and we get a sense of the larger social and ethnic tensions roiling late 19th Century Australia. After all, this is an Aussie-Irish under-class dealing with the same global oppression as the victims of the Famine and the Thomas Nast-caricaturing of the United States. And, above all, Carey finds a remarkable voice in which to tell the story. I looked up a bit of the original writings of Kelly, and it’s amazing to hear him on the page. In an interview appended to the novel, Carey talks of discovering Kelly’s voice and imagining the outlaw as a kind of proto-Joyce or proto-Beckett, someone tearing familiar language into strips and then weaving them back into a fresh whole. So, yes, I did love all that, and I can mostly see how this won the Booker. At the same time, though, I suspect much of the power of this novel turns on an awareness of how Carey is manipulating the known fragments of Kelly’s history into a whole. I’ve done a little digging, but I can’t “know” Kelly in the way of an Australian who sees him as perhaps the country’s most famous individual. That is, Kelly represents something in Australian culture, something crucial as a point of contrast with what Carey is doing with him, but that doesn’t come through within the novel. It takes a familiarity with the Australian experience. I am certain this happens in reverse all the time. There must be elements of Gatsby that don’t translate because the touchstones are so tied into distinctly U.S. culture – don’t get me started, but I remain convinced that only a handful of Gatsby readers recognize the cultural significance of the Jewish gangster Meyer Wolfsheim against the backdrop of the East and West Egg socialites we meet. As a bottom line, then, part of the very success of Carey’s novel diminishes my pleasure in it. His story is so compelling, it seems so whole, that it’s easy to lose sight of the full way in which he has woven the different known chapters into his larger imagined history. In his interview, he even says as much; he was disappointed with some of the early, positive reviews that didn’t seem to realize the depth of his authorial project. It took later reviewers to point out the extent to which he’d added depth to the source material, to note how dramatically he was consciously reshaping a foundational myth of Aussie culture. Even as I recognize the scope of that ambition, I find I’m like the first-wave of those reviewers. I enjoy the story and characterizations here – though I’m mildly frustrated that Carey condenses the best-known incidents (because his Aussie readership would already know them) into newspaper-style re-retellings – but I am aware that perhaps the highest ambition of the work falls outside what I can see of it. I’m loosely working my way through significant contemporary Australian literature, with my current favorite being Richard Flanagan. I’d heard Carey was the current heavyweight champ in that field. Good as this is, I have to score this round for my man Flanagan.

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Interesting narrative

Interesting,and well told, but not as sensationally good as I was expecting from Peter Carey

1 person found this helpful