Good Bad Guys vs. Bad Good Guys

True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
Had I done the slightest bit of research before starting to read this book, I would have known that Ned Kelly and his “gang” were true historical figures and considered by many Australians as folk heroes. As it was I thought that Peter Carey was very clever to invent this fictional character and present him to us through a series documents supposedly written by the infamous Kelly himself. Of course, Carey did in fact write a fictional story since what Kelly’s exact actions and thoughts and intentions were will never be known to us. Ned’s first person account of his life story starting from when he was a young boy living with his mother, six siblings, and occasionally with his father too, who was an outlaw and spent a lot of time in jail. If we are to believe this fictional Ned’s version of the events, he became an outlaw because circumstances forced him to adopt that way of life and he was not in the least the hardened killer he was made out to be by the government and the media and it’s hard not to feel sympathetic toward his cause. In any case, it’s an entertaining story with good guys that are bad and bad guys that are actually good, lots of horses, guns and shooting and a detailed description of what living as a poor farmer in Australia in the late 19th century, or being apprentice to an experienced bushranger (Australian outlaw) must have been like. It’s all made all the more colourful thanks to Ned’s simple “adjectival” prose which although he’s obviously gone through pains to keep clean is riddled with the suggestion of expletives since the raison d’être of these documents is for his daughter to one day have a true account of the events that led up to her father’s death.

I gave it ★★★★ (packed with all the good stuff you’d expect out of a story about outlaws)


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