Summary and book reviews of True History of The Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

True History of The Kelly Gang

by Peter Carey

True History of The Kelly Gang
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2001, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Nov 2001, 368 pages

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Book Summary

Out of nineteenth-century Australia rides a hero of his people and a man for all nations. Exhilarating, hilarious, panoramic, and immediately engrossing.

Out of nineteenth-century Australia rides a hero of his people and a man for all nations, in this masterpiece by the Booker Prize-winning author of Oscar and Lucinda and Jack Maggs. Exhilarating, hilarious, panoramic, and immediately engrossing.

This is Ned Kelly's true confession, in his own words and written on the run for an infant daughter he has never seen. To the authorities, this son of dirt-poor Irish immigrants was a born thief and, ultimately, a cold-blooded murderer; to most other Australians, he was a scapegoat and patriot persecuted by "English" landlords and their agents.

With his brothers and two friends, Kelly eluded a massive police manhunt for twenty months, living by his wits and strong heart, supplementing his bushwhacking skills with ingenious bank robberies while enjoying the support of most everyone not in uniform. He declined to flee overseas when he could, bound to win his jailed mother's freedom by any means possible, including his own surrender. In the end, however, she served out her sentence in the same Melbourne prison where, in 1880, her son was hanged.

Still his country's most powerful legend, Ned Kelly is here chiefly a man in full: devoted son, loving husband, fretful father, and loyal friend, now speaking as if from the grave. With this mythic outlaw and the story of his mighty travails and exploits, and with all the force of a classic Western, Peter Carey has breathed life into a historical figure who transcends all borders and embodies tragedy, perseverance, and freedom.

Parcel 1
His Life until the Age of 12

National Bank letterhead. Almost certainly taken from the Euroa Branch of the National Bank in December 1878. There are 45 sheets of medium stock (8" 3 10" approx.) with stabholes near the top where at one time they were crudely bound. Heavily soiled.

Contains accounts of his early relations with police including an accusation of transvestism. Some recollections of the Quinn family and the move to the township of Avenel. A claim that his father was wrongly arrested for the theft of Murray's heifer. A story explaining the origins of the sash presently held by the Benalla Historical Society. Death of John Kelly.

I lost my own father at 12 yr. of age and know what it is to be raised on lies and silences - my dear daughter you are presently too young to understand a word I write but this history is for you and will contain no single lie may I burn in Hell if I speak false.

God willing I shall live to see you read these words, to ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
The introduction, discussion questions, author biography, and suggested reading list that follow are designed to enhance your group's reading of Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang. We hope they will provide you with new ways of thinking and talking about a novel that vividly re-creates the life of Australia's most famous and most fascinating outlaw.


  1. In Australia, Ned Kelly is so revered as a national icon that his image was placed on center stage during the opening ceremonies of the Summer 2000 Olympic Games. Though his legacy is still controversial and some regard him as a criminal and murderer, he is widely seen as a champion of the oppressed and a forerunner of Australian nationalism. What aspects of Kelly's character ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Wall Street Journal - Jaime James

The research is impressively detailed, and Mr. Carey rarely succumbs to the temptation to flaunt it. If you want punctuation and good grammar and a coherent point of view, then go read somebody else's book. But if you want the true history of the Kelly gang, this is it.

Time - Michael Fitzgerald

True History of the Kelly Gang offers an energized confabulation of man and myth . . . Carey's most breathtaking feat [and] a fabulous performance.

New York Times - Janet Maslin

Writing so convincingly in Ned's argot that his own elegantly phrased acknowledgments at the end of True History of the Kelly Gang seem starkly incongruous, the Booker Prize-winning author of Oscar and Lucinda invests Ned's account with all the makings of a swaggering adventure tale as well as a classic Western tragedy.

New York Times Book Review - Anthony Quinn

The form and style of the novel could hardly be more striking . . . Bristling with shafts of wit and poetic grace notes . . . Packed with incident, alive with comedy and pathos, True History of the Kelly Gang contains pretty much everything you could ask of a novel. It is an adjectival wonder.

Publishers Weekly

As genuine as a diamond in the rough . . . No reader will be left unmoved.

Library Journal

.... the novel is a tour de force akin to an American Western. Though Kelly may or may not have been the sterling character Carey makes him, his life has been turned into formidable fiction. Highly recommended.

The Bulletin - Australia

A novel that is by turns rambunctious and tender, teeming with life and incident, and whose plainspoken surfaces conceal a strange and prismatic book, richly imagined, ambivalent and passionate.

Author Blurb Beverly Lowry
I completely admire Peter Carey's work, the worlds he enters, the stakes he goes for ,and Ned Kelly's a leap even beyond the others brilliantly constructed, gorgeously written, a simply heartbreaking story.

Author Blurb Kent Haruf
True History of the Kelly Gang is a true wonder. It's lyrical and hard-edged at the same time, constantly inventive, pell-mell in its storytelling, and, best of all, the voice Peter Carey invents for Ned Kelly is nothing less than mint-fresh original. This is just amazing writing.

Reader Reviews

Tim

The superb imagery, and diction of Carey highlights the harsh nature of not only Kelly's life, and struggle, but the environment in which he lived.

Zac

For me, the most enthralling thing about this book is Kelly's evolving relation to the bush. The relationship between the bushranger and his landscape is one of the most fascinating in our history, and apart from all other reasons why this book ...   Read More

Pieta

I really enjoyed this book. i put off reading it because it looked boring and i didnt enjoy the first few pages. we had to read it for year 11 english this year. once i actually got around to reading it i couldnt put it down. other than this book ive...   Read More

Beau Weight

History as truth? I think not.
From the most mundane to those elevated moments of achievement, we are constantly bedeviled by, `what is the truth.' Most of this is associated not with what actually happened, rather what we thought happened. Even in this modern age with huge ...   Read More

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