Wednesday, October 3, 2012

His Illegal Self, by Peter Carey

Photo: Peter Carey life

This is the amazing tale of a boy who is "accidentally" kidnapped. Anna Zenos, nicknamed Dial (for Dialectic) is an SDS operative who is taking the child from the custody of his grandma to his radically revolutionary parents when a violent explosion derails her plans. Now fugitives, the woman and child are on the run: from New York to Philly, from Seattle to Brisbane and beyond. On the way, Anna and the stolen child fall for one another.

Told by turns from the point of view of the brave and intelligent eight-year-old Che (or Jay, as his Park Avenue grandmother prefers to call him) and Anna, this novel places the reader (or listener) in the heart of sixties activism.

Anna's planned life has been interrupted by her revolutionary politics. Instead of becoming the Vassar prof she was meant to be, will she become the guardian of a child whose fate is determined by his birth into a particular place and time in history? And how is her fate tied to that of her Greek father, a revolutionary himself?

Brilliantly conceived and lushly executed, the book conjures up the era, the characters and the Australian landscape in a way that awakens the senses. The plot twists and turns to the very end. Will Che grow up in a remote hippie commune at Remus Creek, or will he return to the privileged American life that awaits him, the same one his mother so violently turned her back on? We're kept guessing until the very end.

Peter Carey was born in a small town in Australia in 1943 and moved to New York in 1990, where he continued to write novels. His other titles include Illywhacker (shortlisted for the Booker in 1985), Oscar and Lucinda (Man Booker Prize, 1988) and The True History of the Kelly Gang (2001).

His Illegal Self was published as a book by Knopf in 2008, and the audiobook, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, came out the same year.

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