Eliza's Reviews > His Illegal Self

His Illegal Self by Peter Carey
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Mar 04, 2011

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bookshelves: novel
Read from March 04 to 09, 2011

3/9/2011: Peter Carey has an amazing imagination. I've read only two of his books (he's written at least 15 novels), but it becomes clear quickly that he's very good at taking a "What if..." and letting his imagination turn the answer to that question into a story. In this novel, Che/Jay, the 7-year-old son of two radical Harvard students of the 1960s, is being raised by his grandmother in Park Avenue style. Then the message comes through from the mother (who is underground) that she wants to see her son. Dial, a woman whose significance becomes clear later in the story, is deputed to make this visit happen. And then it all goes wrong....
Funny, sad, heartwarming--the situation the pair find themselves in is ridiculous yet believable; tragic and yet still hilarious. Che and Dial are wonderfully written, and the development of their relationship is done brilliantly. (The other characters are a bit flat, but that hardly matters.) Carey also does a great job of matching the reader's understanding of what is going on with whichever character he's channeling at the moment (the novel is written in 3rd person, but cycles back and forth between Che's and Dial's points of view). So what is going on, exactly, isn't always clear...but isn't life often like that, especially when you've left everything you ever knew far, far away?
I can see why Carey's won the Booker Prize twice. He's such a masterful writer, and loves the challenge of creating imaginary worlds that are completely believable. I guess I'll have to read more...

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