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His Illegal Self


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From the two time winner of the Booker Prize.

About the Author

Peter Carey is the multi-award-winning author of eight novels, plus two highly acclaimed collections of short stories and a memoir, WRONG ABOUT JAPAN. His books have won or been short-listed for every major literary award in Australia. He has won the Booker Prize twice - in 2001 for TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG and in 1988 for OSCAR AND LUCINDA. In 1998 he won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for JACK MAGGS, and again in 2001 for TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG. In 2007 he won the NSW Premier's Award and the Victorian Premier's Award for THEFT: A LOVE STORY. Born in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, Peter Carey now lives in New York.


The violent tactics of the Weathermen of the 1960s have inspired several excellent novels in recent years, notably Susan Choi's American Woman (2003) and Dana Spiotta's Eat the Document (2006). Both deal with the experience of living as a fugitive inside the United States, with a menial job and a fake ID. Australian novelist and Booker Prize winner Peter Carey offers a slightly different take on sixties radicalism. Carey's heroine Dial (short for Dialectic) has just landed her dream job at Vassar when she gets a call from her flamboyant friend Susan Selkirk, a gun-toting radical wanted by the FBI. Putting Vassar on hold, Dial ends up escaping to Australia with Selkirk's son Che, where they move into a ramshackle hippie commune in the outback. Most of the book describes their daily struggle to make a home together. Carey is more interested in exploring Dial's motives and Che's sense of identity than he is in rehashing American politics. Indeed, for an author best known for vivid period pieces like True History of the Kelly Gang (2000), this is a strangely unhistorical work. Emotionally charged but awkwardly constructed and slow-moving, this effort is not up to Carey's usually high standards. For larger fiction collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/07.]--Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Carey, who has made a career out of boring into the psyches of scoundrels, delivers a cunning fugitive adventure set largely in the wilds of Australia. Raised by his boho-turned-bourgeois grandmother on New York's Upper East Side, Che Selkirk, seven years old in 1972, hasn't seen his Weathermenesque parents since he was a toddler, but when a young woman who calls herself Dial walks into Che's apartment one afternoon, he believes his mother has finally come. Within two hours, Dial and Che are on the lam and heading for Philly as Che's kidnapping hits the news. Unexpected trouble strikes, and soon the boy and Dial, who doesn't know how or if to tell Che that she is only a messenger who was supposed to escort him to meet his mother, land in a hippie commune in the Australian outback. The novel sags as Dial, with the help of local illiterate "feral hippie" Trevor, tries to make the primitive living situation work; the drama consists largely of commune infighting and the travails of living without running water, but the narrative eventually regains its thrust and barrels toward a bang-up conclusion. While this novel lacks the boldness of Theft or the sweep of Oscar and Lucinda, it's still a fine addition to the author's oeuvre. (Feb.) Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

Adult/High School-It is 1972 and seven-year-old Che Selkirk, the son of radical parents he has never met, lives in isolated privilege with his well-to-do grandmother. Denied access to television and the news, he picks up scraps of information about his outlaw mother and father from a teenage neighbor who assures Che that his parents will come and "break you out of here." When a woman named Dial arrives at the boy's Park Avenue apartment to take him on a day excursion, he assumes that she is his mother. Unfortunately, things go terribly awry and Che becomes a fugitive himself. He and Dial end up in the Australian bush in an inhospitable commune. Carey uses a stream-of-consciousness style that poignantly communicates Che's confusion about his life on the lam and what he really wants. The explosive conclusion is worth the wait as the author vividly portrays the hardscrabble, primitive life of a group of hippies in his native Australia. Young adults will appreciate His Illegal Self for its main character-an orphan by circumstance-who struggles to understand his predicament and ultimately gains not only wisdom, but also the love he has sought.-Pat Bangs, Fairfax County Public Library, VA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

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