When I went to Australia in 1989, I spent some time in Melbourne, and one of the places I visited was the Old Melbourne Gaol; there I saw the death mask (plaster mold of the head after death) of Ned Kelly, infamous Australian bushranger (photo here – may be disturbing though). I didn’t know much about him, other than he was an outlaw, but I assumed he was not a nice person.
Although a fictional account, the True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey paints Kelly in a somewhat different light. The novel is told in the form of a journal written by Ned Kelly to his infant daughter (whom he never met) describing his life from his boyhood to the final standoff that led to his arrest and eventual execution. The style of the narrative is conversational and colloquial, and to me it showed Ned Kelly as a man who did what he thought was necessary to protect his family, especially his mother and brother Dan who was part of his gang.
The descriptions of the Australian frontier are vivid — the rough lives the settlers had to endure and the lawlessness that prevailed are quite evident and provide background to Ned’s story that make this novel seem more real.
For a non-Aussie like me some of the slang used was a bit confusing, but apart from that I enjoyed this book for its introduction to a colorful piece of Australian history.
Many thanks to Becky at PageTurners, who generously sent me the book as part of her blogiversary celebration.