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

His Illegal Self

3.19  ·  Rating details ·  2,149 Ratings  ·  351 Reviews
Two-time Booker Prize-winner Peter Carey’s His Illegal Self crackles with passionate, electrifying prose and characters that leap off the page and into your psyche. Utterly captivating.

It is 1972 and Ché, a precocious seven-almost-eight-year-old boy, leads a rather bourgeois life on Park Avenue with his eccentric grandmother. His parents are young radicals in hiding from
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 10th 2009 by Vintage Canada (first published February 5th 2008)
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 His Illegal Self, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about His Illegal Self

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-10)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Another mis-matched audio read. I picked this up not knowing what else to choose. I have made a list since, of books on my tbr, so I will not make a mistake like this again. I do look forward to the 20 or so books I have noted down for myself. Literary fiction is not my choice, but I have wanted to try this Aussie author for some time as I own a couple of his. Amnesia is the only one that comes to mind, although I am certain there are more.

As I was not engaged with this one, I ended up missing k
Jan 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: just about anyone - it's an easy, fast read, but very well written
Recommended to Magdalena by: I read everything Carey writes!
Che Selkirk is a boy whose parents, members of the increasingly violent Students for a Democratic Society, have both disappeared, leaving him with his very rich grandmother. At the age of eight, a woman that Che recognises as his mother suddenly arrives and kidnaps him, taking him from New York to Australia. This is how the book begins, and Che’s adventure through hunger, love and loss becomes almost a coming of age tale as he starts to understand who he is and where his future lies.

On the simp
I was captivated in many ways with this unusual story, often moved in surprising breakthroughs, but for the most part unfulfilled by the mash-up of perspectives and non-linear narrative.

We have a precocious and lonely seven year-old boy, Che, being raised by a wealthy grandmother in New York, who through a confusing series of events, ends up hiding out in a semi-jungle region of northern Queensland, Australia, with his former babysitter/housekeeper, Dial. He’s a real trooper, very resilient. He
Molly Jones
Worthy of another Booker prize?
Fascinating with some literary merit?

Carey tells this tale mainly from two characters' perspectives: a boy/son/grandson, Che or Jay, and a mother/kidnapper/revolutionary, Dial or Anna. Confused? Try reading the novel. The prose isn't necessarily dense, but it often demands rereading phrases or sentences in order to interpret what, exactly, is happening in the novel. Carey never uses quotation marks, which, surprisingly, isn't the cause of the confusion. He,
Lisa Osur
Sep 12, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't often get to the point when I decide I can't read anymore but I did with His Illegal Self. I had been looking at this book for a long time and finally picked it up to read. What I found was extremely confusing. Who is the boy? Who is his mother? Is his father really the Che? How is the grandmother involved? Is his mother really his mother or someone else and what or who is she hiding from? Then the mother sacrifices herself but did she really? The story jumps around locations and time pe ...more
Barbara Ellison
Aug 02, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Peter Carey is one of the few authors whose works I've read in their entirety. I've enjoyed some very much and others were blown away by. I think he should get at least as much attention and fame as Ian McEwan. However, "His Illegal Self" is a misstep. The novel reads like a draft--something quick and dirty that Carey had to get out to the publisher in order to fulfill a contract having already spent the advance.

There's nothing to hold on to in this book--if character makes plot then there's no
Apr 12, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
loving this book
written with such emotion i want to reach and hug or smack the characters far too frequently


i really enjoyed this book. it was so easy to connect with the characters in this book - like or hate them

the story is about a woman who steals a child in America, kind of by accident and then lands up on the run with him, in Australia.
the book very beautifully shows the relationship between this woman and the boy, as well as the relationships they both have with the odd hippies th
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: no-one
Shelves: fiction
This is not one of Peter Carey's better efforts. It seems to be one of those books that delights in making it as difficult as possible for the reader to follow the story. First, we have no punctuation marks on the conversations. OK, I can put up with that if I must. Then we have the chapters being told from different viewpoints (the child or “the mother” – who appears not to be the mother) without making that clear. OK, so I can get used to that as well, once I realize what’s going on. But add t ...more
May 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Peter Carey's usual mix of something a little bit mysterious and criminal, and something ironically funny, His Illegal Self is a great little comical romp involving an inadvertent kidnapping. Che (He insists on being called "Chay" whereas his grandparents call him "Jay") is snatched from his wealthy grapndparents' custody by a friend of his outlaw mother ostensibly for a short visit. When the mother unexpectantly dies, the friend, an Ivy League student from Australia named "Dial", panics and tak ...more
Sep 20, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: antipodes
Carey is such a beastly writing god that I can almost ignore the fundamental implausibility of the impetus behind the central plot. This isn't a work of fantasy or even magical realism - it falls firmly into the modern realist camp, but in places it does have a woozy, dreamy feel, coupled with a storyline that doesn't quite make sense. Why, exactly, would Anna abandon her job? What happened to Susan? What's the deal with the dad? Why Australia? What the hell is going on with all of these nasty h ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Dark Places
  • An Open Swimmer
  • The Unknown Terrorist
  • Black Flies
  • My Revolutions
  • The School on Heart's Content Road
  • Dictation: A Quartet
  • The Lost Dog
  • Yesterday's Weather
  • Carpentaria
  • Johnno
  • Tirra Lirra by the River
  • Eucalyptus
  • The Spare Room
  • The Three of Us: A Family Story
  • The Orchard
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...
“Swimming always cleans your soul” 8 likes
“Your American, you wouldn't know if you were up yourself.” 1 likes
More quotes…