Ruby's Reviews > Oscar and Lucinda

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
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's review
Mar 06, 11

bookshelves: fiction, australian-literature, read-in-2011
Read from February 02 to 19, 2011

I didn't read any reviews until I was more than halfway through the book, so I knew by then that the event most of them here mention - the wager on the glass church - is not at the centre of the story. If I had been reading Oscar & Lucinda waiting for that I most certainly would have been disappointed. I WAS disappointed when I saw that many (most) reviewers on Goodreads gave great reviews to the book... because I'm deeply ambivalent about Oscar & Lucinda, which I WANTED to like much more than I did.

I have really mixed feelings towards Peter Carey's. When I first started it, I professed loudly and clearly to everyone that would listen that I didn't enjoy the story, or connect with any of the characters or even like the way it was written. Yet, I didn't have any trouble finishing it - in fact, I found it incredibly easy, sometimes exquistely beautiful, to read.

The main problem was that I found that I didn't connect with the characters until three quarters into the book, by which point I was a bit exhausted from dragging myself through their lives without any real interest. This was especially the case at the beginning of the novel.

Another aspect that held me back was the story: The beginning is very slow, and felt like it focused on setting the child-Oscar and child-Lucinda very firmly in place and time and then throwing up events that would shape them into the adults they became. Throughout the story the chapters jump here and there to tangents in the story or minor characters. Every single character (and to me, they felt too much like characters in a book rather than real people), even some of the most marginal ones, has his or her own particular eccentricity or individual quirk that requires a backstory to explain how events in their history shaped them (which only served to distance me further from them). All these events from the beginning and the characters essentially shape the ending, and its very clever of Carey to tie everything in, but at the beginning I didn't care and by the end it all seemed too cleverly constructed to shape Oscar and Lucinda's characters in a certain way and lead them to that point.

In the end, I know what I didn't like about the novel, but I can't figure out what it is that I did like. I found it incredibly easy to read and beautifully, occasionally poetically worded - but at times that came with a sense of frustration too. At about the three quarter mark I found that I really did like and care about the characters - although that feeling came and went as the story progressed. So I'm still not sure... If nothing else, I found it nice to read something set in Australia (even if it was set in an Australia over 100 years in the past), which I rarely do these days.
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Reading Progress

02/02/2011 page 198
02/04/2011 page 198
38.0% "I don't empathise with the characters, nor am I particularly interested in following their lives. Not a fan of the writing style or the way the chapters jump here and there through time and to tangents on the story or minor characters. But somehow I'm still reading it. It's easy to read... despite my utter disinterested boredom with the entire concept, I'm still reading."

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