By Peter Carey
(Alfred A. Knopf, Hardcover, 9780679440086, 320pp.)
Publication Date: January 1998
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From the Booker Prize-winning author, a vivid and robust novel of Dickensian London--a place and a story teeming with mystery, science, and passion.
The time, the 1830s. Jack Maggs, a foundling trained in the fine arts of thievery, cruelly betrayed and deported to Australia, has now reversed his fortunes--and seeks to fulfill his well-concealed, innermost desire. Returning " home" under threat of execution, he inveigles his way into a household in Great Queen Street, where he's quickly embroiled in various emotional entanglements--and where he falls under the hypnotic scrutiny of Tobias Oates, a celebrated young writer fascinated by the process of mesmerism and obsessed with the criminal mind.
From this volatile milieu emerges a handful of vividly drawn characters in the dangerous pursuit of love, whether romantic or familial--each of them with secrets, and secret longings, that could spell certain ruin. And as their various schemes converge, the captivating figure at the center is Jack Maggs himself, at once frightening, mystifying, and utterly compelling.
" Imaginative and audacious . . . A twentieth-century, post-colonial Dickens novel . . . This strange, bold, gripping, and wonderful novel is the story of a power struggle, a double love story, a quest story, and a story of trickery and disguise. It's about taking possession--of an inheritance, of another person's soul, of your own destiny--and being taken possession of. Not least, it's the story ofone writer's being possessed by another."
--Hermione Lee, The Observer
" Uncommonly exciting and engaging. As much as anyone now writing, Peter Carey is a master of storytelling. His empathy with his characters, combined with his psychological sharp-sightedness, has them almost jumping off the page in full human complexity. An especial bonus is his style . . . Vivid, exact, unexpected images and language match the quick, witty intelligence flickering through this novel, and make it a triumph of ebullient indictment, humane insight, and creative generosity."
--Peter Kemp, Sunday Times (London)
" Writing and philosophical contemplations of the highest order . . . On a par with, and more interesting than, his two earlier masterpieces . . . An absorbing, beautifully written novel finished off with a most satisfactory happy ending, and with incidents, an atmosphere, and ideas that linger in the mind."
--Carmen Callil, The Daily Telegraph