Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Jack Maggs” as Want to Read:
Jack Maggs
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Jack Maggs

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  3,617 ratings  ·  247 reviews
The Booker Prize-winning author of Oscar and Lucinda returns to the nineteenth century in an utterly captivating mystery. The year is 1837 and a stranger is prowling London. He is Jack Maggs, an illegal returnee from the prison island of Australia. He has the demeanor of a savage and the skills of a hardened criminal, and he is risking his life on seeking vengeance and rec ...more
Paperback, 357 pages
Published February 22nd 1999 by Vintage (first published 1997)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Jack Maggs, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Jack Maggs

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,617 ratings  ·  247 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
mark monday
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 s ...more
Lisa
Best proof that literature is a dialogue between readers, writers and stories!

Revisit Dickens from a different perspective, and enter the world of Jack Maggs, whose London is like a dark mirror of the shiny surface. Outstanding storytelling!
Paul
Jun 14, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery
An almost 4 stars rounded up
This is an intelligent reworking of Great Expectations from the point of view of the convict; the eponymous Jack Maggs. Carey has a habit of doing this in his novels. The Unusual life of Tristan Smith relates to Sterne and Oscar and Lucinda is a reworking of Gosse’s Father and Son.
Carey populates the novel with fantastical characters and fully immerses himself in Dickensian London with some vivid descriptive passages. Jack Maggs returns from Australia in secret (he h
...more
Tim
I loved Carey's Oscar and Lucinda but found this a bit disappointing. It's a variation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations and while Carey strips all sentimentality from the tale he doesn't succeed in plumbing the depths of human nature that Dickens did. It often comes across as a rather flippant novel, a bit of fun.
As in Great Expectations we have the convict (Maggs) and his devotion to a young boy who shows him kindness when he is on his way to Australia. He becomes rich in Australia and
...more
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Time and place were chosen specially to make this magnificent stylization to Charles Dickens particularly credible.
“Now, each day in the Morning Chronicle, each fortnight in the Observer, it was Tobias Oates who ‘made’ the City of London. With a passion he barely understood himself, he named it, mapped it, widened its great streets, narrowed its dingy lanes, framed its scenes with the melancholy windows of his childhood. In this way, he invented a respectable life for himself: a wife, a babe, a
...more
Brian
Jan 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A post-colonial reworking of the story of Great Expectations, Jack Maggs is the tale of a transported convict who returns secretly to England to see Henry Phipps, the adopted son whose education he has financed. Unlike Great Expectations however, the convict's story is the central narrative of the book, rather than that of the young gentleman he has secretly fostered. Jack Maggs has known very little kindness in his life and this does not change when he finally meets up with Henry. He returns to ...more
Bettie
Dedication: For Alison

Author's Note: The author willingly admits to having once or twice stretched history to suit his own historical ends.

Front quote ia a lengthy extract from Du magnétisme animal (1820) by Armand Marie Jacques de Chastenet, Marquis de Puységur.

Opening: It was a Saturday night when the man with the red waistcoat arrived in London. It was, to be precise, six of the clock on the fifteenth of April in the year of 1837 that those hooded eyes looked out the window of the Dover coach
...more
Adrienne Jones
Sep 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008
Because of a love for Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang I picked up this book at a library used book sale, and it sat in a box for over a year.

Late one night I found myself without any late night reading material. A recently unpacked copy of Jack Maggs stared back at me from our book shelves.

What a fabulous find. The period, setting, and characters are often compared with Dickens, but they so exceed Dickens' 2-dimensional approach.

I stayed up much later than late to find out the mysterious
...more
Michael Shilling
Apr 13, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who enjoy Victorian London as the deepest expression of slow-cured sorrow
Interesting to read a book about Victorians that is completely driven by dialogue, as opposed to the thick soup of expository language that is sometimes beautiful -- such as in Bleak House -- and sometimes awful -- such as in Bleak House. And on that note, Carey doesn't write like Dickens at all; with Carey, you don't the intense highs and lugubrious lows, but you do get to start a book you may actually finish.


Subiaco Library
The story goes that Peter Carey read Charles Dickens‘s Great Expectations and felt that the convict character Magwitch, as an example of an early Australian, was treated badly. Carey also thought that perhaps Dickens‘s had known a person like Magwitch and had unfairly exploited his misfortune. An inspired Carey set out to write Jack Maggs. Maggs is a Magwitch type character and there is also Tobias Oates, writer and practitioner of magnetism (hypnotism), who is an analogue of Dickens.

At first I
...more
Shawn
Jan 18, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favs
What a fun book to read! I was thoroughly caught up in the story and in the weirdness of Carey's Dickensian characters. I was especially delighted to dislike Percy Buckle at first, then to like him and think him nobel for saving poor Mercy Larkin--I thought he would be a kind of traditional Dickensian minor hero--then to despise him even more for learning what he does to her, and finally to laugh at him as he encounters his injured front door. And yet, somehow, I feel pity for him as Mercy sees ...more
Ann
Nov 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An engrossing old-fashioned story about a stranger with a mysterious past arriving in London in the 1800s. Jack Maggs lives an adventure, with twisting, turning motives and secrets. Seeking a man at an abandoned house, he is taken on as a footman at the house next door, merely because of his height. Learning the skills of the job prove to be hilarious, though there is the looming threat of the hangman's noose. Mesmerism is the manner that reveals some of his criminal past, as does a letter he wr ...more
Phillip
Second Review: This is a very cool book, combining its Dickensian inspiration with a more modern Victorian crime feel, almost with the atmosphere of a lot of steampunk works, but without the gadgets. Definitely a set of compelling characters, again both building off the foundation Dickens laid in Great Expectations, but clearly reworked from a contemporary standpoint--postcolonial, post-Freudian, postmodern, etc. I am working on an article about how Carey adapts Great Expectations and how the va ...more
Patrick
Nov 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to start with a disclaimer, I'm a fan of Peter Carey. A few years ago, I picked "My Life as a Fake" off the library bookshelf without knowing a thing about Peter Carey. I enjoyed it so much I read "True History of the Kelley Gang" and was blown away. I think "Jack Maggs" is brilliant, although I'm not the person to offer a neutral assessment.

"Jack Maggs" begins with the title character's arrival in 1837 London. He's a wealthy guy looking for a Henry Phipps, but Phipps has fled his hom
...more
James Barker
'Great Expectations' is one of my favourite of the classics, and ever since reading 'The true History of the Kelly Gang' I believe Peter Carey is unsurpassable at his best. So, this post-colonial re-telling of Pip's benefactor, the glorious Magwitch, should have been right up my street.

Well, it was and it wasn't.

Carey manages to get into the heart (and bowels) of Victorian London and his descriptive skill is as sharp as ever. The cast of supporting characters are appropriately Dickensian but ha
...more
Timothy Moriarty
I quit Maggs about halfway through. I wanted to like it; it's got a Dickens-like ring to it, though leaner language, much more narrow scope, very slight attempt at humor or warmth....hell, I tried not to compare it to Dickens, but whether I succeeded or not is an open question. I just know I grew bored, then actively irritated. No characters to latch onto, everyone's motives very murky with no light in sight - just not much life to it and very little interesting detail of the period, unless you ...more
Pamela
Dec 20, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It reveals the dark side of Dickens' Great Expectations, and its postcolonialism haunts in much the same way of Wide Sargasso Sea.
Merilee
Jan 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really 4.5. Another really good book (sort of) based on Great Expectations. Carey has wonderful characters.
Andy Weston
Jun 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Carey’s novel, first published in 1997, is set in London in the 1830s, it’s streets filled with squalid poverty. Jack Maggs returns to the city having been deported to New South Wales for life as the result of theft some years earlier. The London Carey creates here is not a glamorous one, reflecting the story, one of crime and romance, but dark and very much to the point.
Carey’s great skill in writing historical novels is that no matter which period he writes about, it seems he is a master of i
...more
Frank
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've had this book on my shelves for close to ten years. I know I originally acquired this because it is on the list of "1001 books you must read before you die." To me, the books on this list are kind of hit and miss but this one was well worth reading.



It is basically a reworking of Dickens' Great Expectations from the point of view of the convict, Jack Maggs (Magwitch). Maggs has returned illegally from his exile in Australia to seek out the young man who did him a favor just before Maggs was
...more
John Newcomb
Aug 31, 2019 rated it liked it
A slightly comic story with a slightly tragic ending. It is all a bit "Great Expectations" where a convict returns from his life sentence deportation to Australia to find and reward a child who showed him kindness at his lowest point.
Ron Charles
Nov 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Peter Carey's latest novel, "Jack Maggs," roars by with all the beauty and violence of a summer thunderstorm.

Just as English playwright Tom Stoppard plucked Rosencrantz and Guildenstern from the periphery of Shakespeare's "Hamlet," so Carey has created a stunning story about the convict who surreptitiously adopts Pip in Charles Dickens's "Great Expectations."

The novel opens on the day Jack Maggs risks execution by returning from exile in Australia to find the young Londoner he has supported lavi
...more
Luke
Feb 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Peter Carey became one of my favourite authors from my HSC study of Oscar and Lucinda. I suspect the reason behind this was that that work was set in the same period as some of the other (to my younger self) fusty works but brimmed with self-confidence and interest.

I've managed to reread it on an almost yearly basis since I first devoured it (the night before a reading diary was due - one I'd supposedly been writing all holidays) though in the years since I've discovered that this compulsive co
...more
James
Have you ever read Great Expectations? The main character Philip Pirrip ,known as Pip, runs into a convict in the opening scene of the novel. This is Abel Magwitch who meets young Pip at a graveyard. Magwitch tricks the seven-year-old boy into believing that he has an accomplice who is a terrible young man who would tear out and eat Pip's heart and liver if Pip did not help them. Pip, terrified, steals a pork pie, brandy and a file from his house and brings them to Magwitch the next morning. The ...more
Barb
I have not read Dickens...*gasps noted*...it's true. So, I cannot make any clever comparisons between the two authors' works or make any comment on Carey's depiction of the obsessive author in this novel being like Dickens, I really don't know enough to say.

What I do know is that I loved this book. The writing is wonderful, the characters are complex and the story is bittersweet, in other words the perfect recipe for a great novel.

It reminded me of 'Fingersmith' by Sarah Waters which is also s
...more
Julie
I loved this book! This is the story based on Dickens' Great Expectations, but told through the eyes of Jack Maggs (Magwitch in GE). Maggs meets young orphan Henry Phipps (Pip in GE) as a convict on his way to sentencing in Australia. Henry shows him kindness by giving him some food. Maggs remembers this single act of compassion and after serving his prison sentence and making a large fortune in Australia, sends a large monthly allowance which provides Henry with a very idle and rich life. Maggs ...more
Mark Joyce
I enjoy a bit of mock-Victorian silliness but Jack Maggs is daft even by the standards of the genre. All the cliches are present and correct: pompous men failing to control dysfunctional households beset by unspoken upstairs/downstairs tensions; fetid London slums; ragamuffins clambering down chimneys; a vulnerable girl driven into prostitution by an unscrupulous mother; an obsession with hanging and abortions etc etc. Much of the dialogue reads as though it should be voiced by Dick van Dyke. Th ...more
Kristen
Sep 02, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fun book, especially if you know anything about Charles Dickens' life. Carey tackles the task of giving voice to the Australian convict who gives Pip his inheritance, but in such a way that the character (Jack Maggs) interacts with Dickens. It's a commentary on the appropriation of identity and the inherent dangers that lie in the dictatorship that it entails. But it's also a quick, enjoyable read even if you just skim the surface and stick to the plot. Carey's writing is colorful, aut ...more
Amelia, the pragmatic idealist


To be fair, this is probably a really good book, and if I ever read it again, I might just like it.

Trouble is, I read this book when I was 12. Ummm....that was a mistake on my part (and my parents, haha), but still--quite disturbing! And pretty sure I won't be reading it again for awhile, just because every time I think of it, I always remember "that scene." :[
Anyway, the moral of the story is--parents, check what your kids are reading! And kids, I don't care how mature you are, some stuff just
...more
Sylvester
2.5* I can't decide whether the tie to "Great Expectations" helps this book or not. If I could have read it without thinking about how it was different from or similar to the Dickens plot, I think I would have enjoyed it more. Not to say that I didn't enjoy it. Carey is an excellent writer, and this book, of the ones I've read, was the easiest to read by far. My advice to those wanting to read this - think of it as a study of Jack Maggs as a character, rather than reading with the shades of "Gre ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Around the Year i...: Jack Maggs, by Peter Carey 1 13 Mar 12, 2018 07:27AM  
Great books that incorporate characters from classic texts 1 3 May 12, 2016 05:10PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Voss
  • Remembering Babylon
  • Dark Palace
  • Mr. Darwin's Shooter
  • The Untouchable
  • The Talk of the Town
  • That Eye, the Sky
  • The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith
  • The White Earth
  • Carpentaria
  • Death of a River Guide
  • Drylands
  • Everything You Need
  • Careful He Might Hear You
  • Another World
  • Small Remedies
  • Thursbitch
  • Land
See similar books…
767 followers
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
...more