mark monday's Reviews > Jack Maggs

Jack Maggs by Peter Carey
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Nov 05, 2010

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bookshelves: foggy-nights, into-the-past

a tidy, pleasant entry within the wildly popular Victorian Mystery subgenre. or in this case, the slightly pre-Victorian Mystery subgenre. what is it about this era that holds so much fascination for readers? the most obvious guess is that the fans of these fictions always know that they will be enjoying luxurious expanses of gothic description, built on a foundation of cosseted repression meets wondrous discovery. Jack Maggs does not fail to satisfy on that level - and it is about a tenth the size of most of its kin.

the central character is foreboding and completely loveable, and the supporting characters are suitably dickensian yet multi-leveled in a very modern way. the plot is an elaborate series of charades, false paths and red herrings. the writing is splendid: quaintly victorian in style, naturally, but also at times as yearning as some of the characters themselves. much like its title character, it is a grim bit of business on the surface but a gentle and sweet book at heart - the kind of book that makes me want to befriend the author.

it is probably irresponsible to review the novel without mentioning its antecedent, Dickens' Great Expectations. i'm a fan of secret heroes within novels (Snape! Mr. Norrell! Ariel Hawksquill! Bunter!) and Magwitch has always been the not-so-secret hero of dickens' classic. Jack Maggs does no disservice to Pip's fearsome benefactor; the novel is almost an ode to that character. and it is satisfying, in a spiteful kind of way, to see Pip transformed into an essentially worthless cad. you always were a fookin' jackass, Pip.

all that said, the author's Oscar and Lucinda is his benchmark for me, so far.
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08/02/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-8 of 8) (8 new)

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Judith I'm quite the fan of Carey. Though this is not his best work, it held my attention. Look forward to reading your take on it.


mark monday so far, so good! i really enjoyed Oscar and Lucinda.


Shovelmonkey1 bought this for £1 yesterday in charity shop. Might bump it up the pile (still hate O & L but maybe this'll make me love Carey a wee bit)


mark monday shovelmonkey, have you read Great Expectations? it is particularly fun book in that context.


Shovelmonkey1 Not read Great Expectations but will read then both and hopefully they won't let down my now great... expectations!


message 6: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian "Marvin" Graye I haven't given Carey a fair go since he abandoned writing brilliant short stories. I'm still angry with him.


mark monday not a single novel, really? c'mon Ian, be more forgiving! i think Oscar & Lucinda is brilliant.


message 8: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian "Marvin" Graye I really got turned off by the book and film versions of "Bliss". I've read one other, but can't remember which.

I am frightened of "Oscar and Lucinda". Stiil, I'll deal with it one day.


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