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3.77  ·  Rating details ·  2,364 Ratings  ·  103 Reviews
In Australian slang, an illywhacker is a country fair con man, an unprincipled seller of fake diamonds and dubious tonics. As Carey follows this charming scoundrel across a continent and a century, he creates a crazy quilt of outlandish encounters, with characters that include a genteel dowager who fends off madness with an electric belt and a ravishing young girl with a d ...more
Hardcover, 600 pages
Published July 1st 1985 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 1985)
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Mitchell Badgery goes off to town or something and leaves the kids at camp near Clunes. The son is not paying attention to Sonia, and she is practising the…moreBadgery goes off to town or something and leaves the kids at camp near Clunes. The son is not paying attention to Sonia, and she is practising the invisibility trick, and when he looks up one moment she has disappeared; he is amazed because he thinks she has suddenly mastered the invisibility trick. But:

"Clunes, in case you do not know it,is bored full of mineshafts." (She dies.)(less)
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G'day, g'day!
How ya going?
What do you know!
Well, strike a light!
G'day, g'day,
And how ya go-o-oing?
Just say g'day, g'day, g'day,
And you'll be right!

  —Slim Dusty

This is a novel about Australia: the souvenir-shop image of Slim Dusty records and tourist posters, and the romantic but gritty reality that underlies it. It is about how to separate the two: how to celebrate your own history without turning it into a cartoon or a travesty. It is, in short, about ‘the problems of belief and principle’ fac
Will Dean
Feb 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I tried thinking of a couple of clever ways to start this review, then I remembered this is just a personal internet thing. I loved this book and here's why.

Sometimes you just want to hear a great, rollicking, absurd yarn of a story that makes the elements of life seem larger and more important than they really are while still retaining a bittersweet sense of the transient nature of all things. Maybe it's hard to find books like that (it is) but this is one like that.

Illywhacker is the story of
Boy, it's been kind of gloomy around here recently, hasn't it? What with unanticipated abridgments, disorganized Englishmen, and lukewarm responses to historical fiction, things have looked rosier. But here, my friends, is the antidote: Peter Carey's rollicking Australian epic Illywhacker is robust and uproarious - a chewy, stew-like story you can really sink your teeth into, and which also offers a thought-provoking meditation on the nature of lying and the truth.

I've written before about how
Mar 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone and everyone
Shelves: fiction
Savour every page in this tour-de-force by Australia's finest Booker prizewinner. It's not just 139 year-old Herbert Badgery's outlandish shaggy dog stories on women, aviation and the outback, it's not just the people and places that spring vibrantly from the page, it is the beauty of Carey's craftsmanship, his perfectly-proscribed prose and lovingly-nurtured descriptions that make this novel such a pleasure to read. Enjoy the ride of each and every chapter in what would be an overworked storyli ...more
Apr 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who know The Outback is not a steakhouse
Is this The Great Australian Novel?

Perhaps it's a bit too playful to aspire to such pretensions, but nonetheless it is an admirable attempt.

The book is often catagorized as magical realism, due largely to events that could be (and probably are) entirely fabrications of the narrator: a disappearing act, an alleged Chinese sorcerer, and a mysterious Vegemite jar containing either shape-shifting matter or a rotting body part. Don't be dissuaded: there may be some tall tales told, and a fair amount
Nov 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, 2009, australian
Okay, I enjoyed this book, I liked the characters but as read further into the novel, I found myself wanting more of Herbert Badgery's story. About three quarters of the way, I get bogged into a whole heap of characters that I neither cared about or want to know. I was intrigued by Herbert and I found this massive slab of his story just disappeared as I was taken along to the story about his son and then grandson.
Parts of the book moved into the surreal with people living in cages and just deca
Aug 04, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
My copy of this book was a gift, and I was suckered in by the adjective "funny" from the review on the cover. Intrigued, I read all the glowing reviews from the "big name" periodicals and prepared myself for one amazing read. By the first hundred pages, as I got familiar with the protagonist and the author's style, I began to wonder if I had been flim-flammed. I have to admit my first thought, upon finishing the book, was that this may have been the biggest waste of reading effort I have ever pu ...more
I wish I could give this book a half star; for me, it hovers somewhere between 3 and 4.

"Illywhacker" was remarkable because of the incredible dexterity with which Carey handles his prose. In the first half of the book, Carey manages to shift narrative perspectives, discard his narrators again and again, and jump around in time without disorienting the reader at all. His descriptions of characters are amazingly vivid, unique, and interesting. The first half of "Illywhacker" was essentially a manu
Jun 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ah, remember when books were important! And very very long. This teeming Dickensian Sydney, plonked in a Patrick White desert, was thrust at me by a wild-eyed enthusiast in 1985, shortly after it became the novel that should have won the Booker that year. I took one look at the size of the thing and decided to wait till I was more grown up - in my case another 24 years. To anyone who remembers the 80s it seems dated now by the fashions of the decade (Magic Realism, Wow!) though this effect will ...more
Mar 21, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary-fiction
This novel is about Australia. Not just things that happened there, or people who lived there, but the place itself. It is narrated by Herbert Badgery who lives to be 139. However, Herbert spends very little time talking about himself and his own life - the book is mainly about the people he meets and lives with during his long life - friends, family, lovers, adversaries, etc. He delves into their characters, their histories, and their lives with near-omniscience. The characters are the most imp ...more
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: comedy
Loved this more than I thought I would, the characters seem larger than life and it's easy to fall for the scatty bunch. Would love to have grown up in a pet shop, though I'd prefer to have a room not a cage.
It's a big book but it does have to cover Herbert's long life, 139 years and counting. He's a liar something he tells you from the start of his narration, but he's a loveable rogue.
Aug 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Astounding, entertaining, sprawling achievement. Ostensibly the story of a man's (Herbert Badgery's) life, but focusing more on those people/places/events around him. Marvelous blend of the realistic and the bizarre, with superb dialogue and highly evocative throughout of Australian history/psyche through the 20th century. Essentially 5 Stars, but I'm marking it down slightly cos I was never quite completely bamboozled into not noticing that this is more like a collection of short stories.
Jul 17, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Peter Carey is a fabulous writer, and any book he writes is likely to be worth reading just for the luscious, brilliantly observant, surprising prose and the Dickensian characters. Having gotten that out of the way, I have to say that I was left disappointed by Illywhacker. Clearly it's designed to be a rambling, picaresque story (reviewers mention Tom Jones as a cousin of this book), and it does a marvelous job for the first half or so, which focuses on the roguish con man/narrator Herbert Badg ...more
Anna Kennedy
Nov 18, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Oh I so wanted to love this book, I have picked it up so many times over the years and promised myself that I would get through it one day. I cannot disagree with anyone who has reviewed it as a masterpiece of prose, as always I am in awe of authors who can produce this many words of such dizzying proportions and depths ... but oh God by the end I was praying for the relief of the last page. On reading the first few pages and the back sleeve I had been ready for a long novel of hilarious anecdot ...more
ILLYWHACKER. (1985). Peter Carey. ***.
This is a 600-page epic novel from this Australian author that has been described as “funny,” “devious,” and “bitterly insightful.” It is all of those, but could have been even better if an astute editor had trimmed about 200 pages from it. It is epic in the style of Tom Jones. The main character, the “illywhacker” of the title (Wait! I should mention that “illywhacker” is Australian slang for a trickster or confidence man.) is Herbert Badgery, who, at the
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Where do all the strange ones go? They’re looking for other oddballs who can match them in their wackiness and keep them company.
“It is my belief that there are few things in this world more useful than a hessian bag, and no matter what part of my story I wish to reflect on I find that a hessian bag, or the lack of one, assumes some importance. They soften the edge of a hard bench, can be split open to line a wall, can provide a blanket for a cold night, a safe container for a snake, a rabbit, o
Mar 09, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I'm clearly in a minority, but I find Carey too self-obsessed...and the sense that he's trying too hard makes it difficult for me to get involved with his work. I've tried, I honestly have, because so many of my Aussie friends like his stuff.
Jun 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Superb. Carey's finest work. The history of Australia distilled into one character.
Apr 22, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I want to like Peter Carey, seems I should, kindred spirit and all that, but so far I am not enlisted.
Jayant Maini
This is my second book by Peter Carey (first one was Oscar and Lucinda) and i would say that i am deeply unsatisfied........even though his characters are great and have that magical quality....they seemed to be forced..........!! I always feel that there is something missing in his novels.......!!! I am ready to accept that i might lack the expertize to give any opinion on his work........but i would say that the two of his novels O and L and Illywhacker, that i read, left me discontented.
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Because I didn’t like Bliss, I skipped ahead to Peter Carey’s first Booker Prize winner, Oscar and Lucinda, which I found to be excellent. So I was pleasantly surprised to go back to Illywhacker, Carey’s second novel (and the first nominated for a Booker) to find that it was also an excellent work – a funny, tragic, picaresque epic.

Herbert Badgery, Illywhacker’s protagonist and omniscient narrator, begins the novel by announcing that he is “a hundred and thirty-nine years old… and a terrible lia
Francesca Pashby
Nov 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was hard work, but - WOW! So crazy and descriptive and plausible. But what happened to Sonia? And why were there so many tiny men? And why did I attempt this book when I have noisy children living at home?! It is a novel that one needs to concentrate on!
Sarah O'Flaherty
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Couldn't be bothered finishing.
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Not memorable. Held my interest for quarter of the length and it then whithered away. The book rambled on and just wasn't fascinating. It was rather dull.
Kay Southgate
Jan 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first Peter Carey novel. a kind of Australian Magic Realism, a larger than life character and a rambling family drama with some real curious details along the way. Themes of entrapment and freedom and what it is to be Australian, a nation built on a foundation of lies. I just loved it, and was obsessively immersed to the exclusion of anything else.
David James

Carey, Peter. Illywhacker

From the outset the reader is aware that he is being led on by a con-man, for Carey makes it plain on the cover that his narrator, Herbert Badgery ‘is a terrible liar and always has been.’ Moreover in the novel’s epigraph Carey cites dictionary definitions of the Australian word ‘Illywhacker’ indicating its meaning as variously ‘professional trickster,’ ‘trickster or spieler,’ ‘one who wacks the illy,’ ‘peter tickler’ and ‘eeler spee.’ So the book craves wary walking. Th
First sentence: "My name is Herbert Badgery."

P. 99: "Molly McGrath whimpered and curled her fifty-year old body into a shaking ball beneath the sheets."

Last sentence: "It will give him strength for the interesting times ahead."

From the author's website: In Australian slang, an Illywhacker is a country fair con man, an unprincipled seller of fake diamonds and dubious tonics. And Herbert Badgery, the 139-year-old narrator of Peter Carey's uproarious novel, may be the king of them all. Vagabond an
Big Pete
Here are some reviews by the press that sum up my feelings:

'A great tottering tower of a novel which stands up astonishingly well against all the odds" - Victoria Glendinning, The Sunday Times.
'A book of awesome breadth, ambition... Illywhacker is a triumph' - Geoffrey Dutton, The Bulletin.

As an Australian, I must admit that Peter Carey is one of our finest living Australian authors. His imagination, his narrative power, the way he imbues life into his characters, the cracking prose - he's the r
Nov 12, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was excited to read Illywhacker from the raves on the book jacket calling it funny, farcical and entertaining. When all is said and done, the book has some memorable characters and some humorous parts but it really doesn't live up to the grand praise. The story follows Herbert Badgery, an Austrailian con man (or Illywhacker) who right from the start claims to be a tremendous liar and also 139 years old. A great premise to start with. The novel picks up Herbert's tale in the early 1900's when h ...more
Dan Plonsey
Dec 28, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Peter Carey is one of my favorite authors, yet it's not so easy to explain why. I'll try this: Carey takes the great novels of the 19th century forward into the 20th, and then sets them in Australia (for the most part). His characters are passionate and half-mad, in pursuit of beauty, and, as with Leah in Illywhacker, doing "one fine thing." They are underdogs, discontented, rebellious, but with a sense of decency -- and Carey cannot bring himself to be any more cruel to them than they are able ...more
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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
More about Peter Carey...
“Charles loved her voice. It was so soft and blurred, like pastels. It made his neck tingle just to listen to her. It gave him the same delicious feeling he had as he hovered on the brink of sleep and this feeling - until now - had been the single most pleasant feeling in his life. It was the voice that coloured everything he now thought about her. It was shy and tentative and musical. Sometimes he did not manage to hear the words she said, but he did not let on about his deafness.” 6 likes
“My name is Herbert Badgery. I am a hundred and thirty-nine years old and something of a celebrity. They come and look at me and wonder how I do it. There are weeks when I wonder the same, whole stretches of terrible time. It is hard to believe you can feel so bad and still not die.” 5 likes
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