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True History of the Kelly Gang

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  12,765 ratings  ·  670 reviews
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."
In True History of the Kelly Gang," " the legendary Ned Kelly speaks for himself, scribbling his narrative on er
Paperback, 384 pages
Published December 4th 2001 by Vintage Books USA (first published 2000)
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Booker Prize Winners
20th out of 49 books — 1,426 voters
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Best Books Set in Australia
12th out of 552 books — 307 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paul Bryant
Well here I am being a bad person again, I try to be good and I really do like to like things but you all are probably by now getting the strong idea that really I like to dislike things, such as Booker Prize winners and movies with Scarlet Johanssssssen in them. They call me Mr Grumpy, baby, cause baby, that’s my name. No, Otis Redding did not sing that song, I did. Well I did not make it even to the middle of this Kelly Gang saga and the reasons are disturbing – for me, that is, not for you.

If, like me, you don't know anything about Ned Kelly when you start this book, don't be scared off by the first two pages with the killer robot. That will all become clear later. Really, between the cover design, the killer robot, and the difficult style, I thought I was going to hate this book. Halfway through it, I realized I was totally in love with it. It was this paragraph that really did it for me:

We thought you doomed and rooned the minute you walked out past the chook house and Wild deli
This book is a wonder. It's interesting that it can be so effective when its artifice is so apparent. No one really writes like this. No one really uses this bizarre amalgam of heightened vocabulary, slang, and understatement; just to read a few pages is proof enough of that. The technique is mostly a kind of enjambed, run-on sentence style with colorful Australian argot. Yet one is completely mesmerized by the book. It's pleasures as a narrative are rich and unrelenting. My heart pounds and a s ...more
I fell in love with the voice of Ned Kelly. I can't make judgement on Ned Kelly, but I loved the character as told over to us by Peter Carey. I was simply quite taken. When I first started the book I felt that a little punctuation wouldn't be amiss but as the story continued I started to think in that voice, to hear it in my head and roll the sounds of it around in my mouth. This is the line where I realized that I loved this book, "He were as lazy as the dog that rests its head against the wall ...more
Written in the words of the infamous bushranger and outlaw Ned Kelly – Australia’s Jesse James/ Robin Hood – the True History of the Kelly Gang is a novel which accounts Kelly’s life from impoverished childhood to inevitable capture and execution. Kelly’s story centers on the unfairness and corruption of the nineteenth century Australian legal system, and the discriminations against the poor and the Irish (of which Kelly was both). Through it all, Ned Kelly’s motivations are for justice, family ...more
This is an 'adjectival' original piece of historical fiction. Carey did a fine job recreating Ned Kelly's voice. A piece of 19th century Australian history come to life through the masterly invented voice of Australia's most famous bushranger.
In an interview with the Guardian newspaper in 2001, Peter Carey stated that the idea for writing a history of Ned Kelly started when he read the so-called Jerilderie Letter in a museum in the 1960s. This 8,000 word, 56-page letter was dictated to fellow gang member Joe Byrne by Ned following the robbery of the Jerilderie bank in 1879. In it Ned explains why he has been driven to lead a life as a bushranger following persecution of his family by a corrupt police force and victimisation of poor ...more
This novel won Peter Carey the Booker Prize in 2001, snubbingAtonement, number9dream, Oxygen and Hotel World. He remains one of only three Australian authors to have won the award (the other two being Thomas Keneally andD.B.C. Pierre) and the only Australian author to win the Booker twice - first time in 1988 for his historical novel Oscar and Lucinda. He shares the honor with J.M. Coetzee, J.G. Farrell and Hilary Mantel.

I had little knowledge about Ned Kelly before reading this novel, except fo
Darryl Mexic
The book aint no adjectival ordinary good read it were an Australian bush tale about ole Ned Kelly a real life legendary criminal and hero and how he were forced to become a bushranger by the effing corrupt police and judges and them fellers what owned everything and bent the law to their favor. Ole Ned wrote his story in letter form to his unborn daughter being carried in the belly of his beloved whore Mary Hearn he seen his family treated poorly and himself put in gaol for no good reason. It’s ...more
Casey (Myshkin) Buell
Here is the story of Ned Kelly, as told in his own words. Or at least that is the novel's conceit. In True History of the Kelly Gang Peter Carey channels Australia's most famous outlaw, relating his tale in powerfully rich, though semi-literate prose. Anyone who's familiar with Ned Kelly's legend (don't worry, you don't need to know anything about Ned Kelly to enjoy the novel) will expect this book to be largely about the so-called Kelly Outbreak, but that is not the case. In fact we don't reach ...more
Jul 01, 2013 Andrea rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Andrea by: Ben Thurley
Shelves: fiction
Talk about total immersion!

Reading this was like being dunked and held under in the inhospitable waters of hardtack bush life in the 19th century, and no, Carey is not letting you up for air! The language and style -a torrential outpouring of unpunctuated vernacular- does take some getting used to, and can be potentially confusing at first (and even later)but I think it's part of what gives this novel such a strong faculty for transporting the reader to another time and place. (I were there with
Leif Erik
This is written as an memoir (difference between an autobiography & a memoir; memoirs don't have indexes) Ned Kelly is setting down for an infant daughter he will never see. Kind of poignant actually. Carey wrote this in a nineteenth century Australian vernacular. Kind of like Trainspotting. Not for everyone. Normally I'd find it annoying and pretentious, but Carey makes it work. That alone probably merits his Booker. The story by itself is amazing. Even in his own words Kelly clearly is no ...more
I like anything Carey. Nothing is going to beat Oscar and Lucinda in my heart, but this one is not bad either. The style is so adjectivally good!

Poignant and entertaining, it’s a story of a bushman and an Australian folk hero, Ned Kelly, told in his own voice in a form of a long lost memoir. Carey apparently came up with Kelly’s unique voice after coming across a real letter Kelly wrote to the authorities explaining why he was innocent of the crimes ascribed to him. It had its own singular gramm
I love a good Peter Carey book: original and fascinating stories, lusciously descriptive prose and characters bursting with wit, drive and vitality. This, I felt, was not one. Okay, by most people's standards it is excellent. My copy tells me that it won the 2001 Booker Prize, so they all thought it was great. Perhaps my expectations are too high. Oscar and Lucinda was fantastic, but not as good as Illywacker. Similarly, 'Kelly Gang' is good, but not as good as 'My Life as a Fake' - to my mind c ...more
I picked this up in Melbourne after learning about Kelly at the old gaol (which is a really great way to spend an afternoon if you're in the neighbourhood). My version has a minimal cover with sandy overlapping cut outs of a head and the armour but unfortunately Goodreads can't find it so I've picked the above.

Told through a series of 'discovered documents' detailing Kelly's life from impoverished youngster right up until his folk-antihero/bushranger death the story moves swiftly. Punctuation g
Kristian Olesen
Ned Kelly has been a lifelong obsession of mine, ever since I found an illustrated version of the Kelly Gang's story in my Year 1 classroom's modest library. For a kid who used to watch Sunday afternoon westerns on TV (while acting them out), this was the greatest discovery - a relatable, homegrown tale, and a good tale at that. It wasn't until years later that I realised that there were people who disdained Kelly and his mates as much as I revered them, but before becoming aware of Australian i ...more
Visha Burkart
Jan 26, 2009 Visha Burkart rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Sarah Messer
This is the second book I have read from Australian author Peter Carey. He is only the second writer to have won the prestigious Booker Prize twice (the first is another favorite writer of mine, JM Coetzee of South Africa). Carey won his Bookers for this book and for Oscar and Lucinda, the first of his books I've read.

What distinguishes each book is the unique voice and writing style Carey uses for each story. While the language of Oscar and Lucinda is sumptuous - almost to the point of being
Ever since my high school boyfriend outed me to my youthful music idol as a slavering fangirl, I resolved to be moderate in my attitudes towards artists whose work I admire. Not that I want to downplay my enjoyment of their art, or affect a "too cool for enthusiasm" attitude. But I realized that day at the indie-rock festival how wrong it was that I was uncomfortable speaking face-to-face with this personable, modest woman, all because I had elevated her onto an unreasonable pedestal. I was unab ...more
I wasn't sure I was going to like this book; in fact, I was pretty sure I was going to hate it. I flipped through it before sitting down to read it and noticed the lack of punctuation and the weak grammar. Then, I actually started reading it and could barely put the book down. While the "True History" is anything but, Carey does a magnificent job capturing the voice of Ned Kelly, the Australian bushranger who later on became a national hero despite his criminal leanings. Kelly is depicted as a s ...more
Another Booker Prize winner under my belt. Liked this a fair bit, but didn't love it. It's historical fiction, a retelling of the Ned Kelly tale. Ned Kelly was evidently a real-life Australian outlaw in the late 19th century, held up in legend as both a murderer and a folk hero. This novel seeks to humanize him and paint him as a sympathetic figure, presenting the narrative as if it were told by Kelly himself in a series of documents written while running from the law. Since Kelly was only semi- ...more
Jun 09, 2014 letterbyletter rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to letterbyletter by: Elizabeth
Crafting a confessionary tale in the persona of Ned Kelly, the Australian outlaw and bushranger, Peter Carey tells a terrific tale, one that is not quite a “true history,” but is all the same compelling. In a story that feels like an Irish folktale, a late 19th-century memoir and a western swashbuckler, Carey creates an alternate Kelly—-a flawed, but earnest folk hero, fighting against colonial oppression.

Setting up a narrative frame of a manuscript that never was, we are told Kelly’s story thr
Nov 09, 2011 Jay rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jay by: Man Booker 2001 Winner
I knew nothing about Ned Kelly and meeting him in this fictionalized account was certainly not painful. Carey’s writing was solid: he had an ear for what appears as the authentic language of the period and was able to sustain that language to the story’s end. The characters also were well enough drawn. And the novel’s conceit—that we were reading thirteen parcels of multiple sheets of paper handwritten by Kelley to his fictional daughter chronicling his life and time—was effective. My problem wa ...more
Conor Bateman
A pretty stunning achievement that vividly recreates the voice of Ned Kelly and dispells, or even creates, myths about his life and his actions. I haven't read as much Australian literature as I probably should have and this novel makes me feel especially guilty for that. It is not just a great Australian novel but a well-constructed, unique and engaging novel in its own right.

It is pretty safe to say that is has completely changed my views concerning Ned Kelly. What we hear growing up are vague
Liam Berry
I knew next to nothing about Ned Kelly before reading this novel and while I know it's a work of fiction it is one which illuminates both the time and situation that the Kelly family (and many other's like them) lived through during the later half of the 19th century and the character of the man himself.

It has been said in a few reviews that Carey's greatest accomplishment in this book is his creation of Kelly's voice and I agree with that. It feels incredibly authentic; I found myself wondering
Zach Underwood
Carey masterfully created an journal-type depiction of Ned Kelly that truly helps the reader become involved with this book. Upon beginning the book, I had a hard time getting used to the writing style, modeled upon what an uneducated Ned Kelly would have written like. However, upon finishing the book, I cannot imagine reading the book in any other way. It is incredible how well written this book was, given that it is written with horrible grammar and awkward sentence structure. But it does make ...more
Initially unaware that both books were short-listed for the Booker in 2001, I read True History of the Kelly Gang shortly after finishing McEwan's Atonement. I find it interesting that the role of the author is at such issue in both books. Thankfully, the two authors take markedly different approaches.

Carey's novel is apparently a fictional enlargement of something actually written by Ned Kelly, a notorious nineteenth century Australian outlaw. For those whose first encounter with Ned Kelly, li
I 'effing' love Peter Carey's prose. An 'adjectival' masterpiece of historical fiction and myth-making.
3.5 stars.

Sort of an Australian Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Interesting history about the discrimination against the Irish in Australia, the system of granting land, and of taking it away on a whim, and the hardscrabble life of 19th century settlers.

The writing style made me think of other novels written in a strong dialect (the narrative, not just the dialogue), such as Once Were Warriors and Buddha Da. However, I found with this book that the narrative style slowed me down and I never
 Δx Δp ≥ ½ ħ
Bagi para pecinta novel In Cold Blood Blood-nya Truman Capote, pasti bakal juga suka dengan novel ini. Termasuk saya ;)

Soalnya cerita keduanya sangat mirip. Sama-sama diangkat dari kisah nyata, dan menceritakan para pembunuh dan penjahat terkejam. Namun uniknya, para penjahat paling sadis pun bisa ditampilkan dalam sosok yang manusiawi. Istilah Serieus Band-nya, "Pembunuh juga manusia, punya rasa, punya hati."

Soalnya, saat membaca In Cold Blood Blood, sekejam apapun penjahatnya (yang membantai s
Mark Pennington
This is a terrific book, written in first person by the mostly literate, champion of the run-on sentence, Ned Kelly. A few years ago I read a biography of Leroy Parker, aka Butch Cassidy. While Butch Cassidy clearly knew that what he was doing was illegal and his "profession" was more a career choice than a statement of defiance. Now I admit, that this is a fictional account and not a biography, but Kelly's actions are clearly more a statement of defiance and, to a degree, a result of being the ...more
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Western Authors &...: Australian westerns 1 8 Aug 08, 2013 06:23AM  
Carey's perfect emotional pitch 12 43 May 10, 2012 05:58AM  
Historical Fiction 1 26 Apr 25, 2011 05:50PM  
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name. See this thread for more information.

Peter Carey was born in Australia in 1943.

He was educated at the local state school until the age of eleven and then became a boarder at Geelong Grammar School. He was a student there between 1954 and 1960 — after Rupert Murdoch had graduated and before Prince Charles arriv
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“If you know the country he said then you will be a wild colonial boy forever” 2 likes
“Your grandfather were a quiet and secret man he had been ripped from his home in Tipperary and transported to the prisons of Van Diemen's Land I do not know what was done to him he never spoke of it. When they had finished with their tortures they set him free and he crossed the sea to the colony of Victoria. He were by this time 30 yr. of age red headed and freckled with his eyes always slitted against the sun. My da had sworn an oath to evermore avoid the attentions of the law so when he saw the streets of Melbourne was crawling with policemen worse than flies he walked 28 mi. to the township of Donnybrook and then or soon thereafter he seen my mother. Ellen Quinn were 18 yr. old she were dark haired and slender the prettiest figure on a horse he ever saw but your grandma was like a snare laid out by God for Red Kelly. She were a Quinn and the police would never leave the Quinns alone.” 2 likes
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