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His Illegal Self


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His Illegal Self, by Peter Carey, is a brilliant novel about love, radical politics, and self-discovery from Booker Prize-winning author of Amnesia, Oscar and Lucinda and True History of the Kelly Gang.

About the Author

Peter Carey received the Booker Prize for Oscar and Lucinda and again for True History of the Kelly Gang. His novel, Parrot and Olivier in America, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2010. His other honours include the Commonwealth Prize and the Miles Franklin Award. Born in Australia, he has lived in New York for twenty years.


A child of Sixties activists wanted by the FBI, eight-year-old Che always dreamed that his parents would rescue him from grandma. Now he has his wish-maybe. With a five-city tour. 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.

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.

"Magnificent. . . . Alluring, unexpected, and intensely moving." --"The Boston Globe" "Exhilarating. . . . Reading this novel is like peering at the human heart. . . . An adventure story for the modern, tormented soul." --"The New York Review of Books" "A beautiful new novel. . . . Carey's stark language imbues the narrative with suspense, and his characters feel absolutely real. He's crafted an unconventional love story that's a striking portrait of the counterculture's dregs."--"People" "Enthralling. . . . His close portrait of the relationship between one benighted woman and the child who depends on her is exquisite." --"The New York Times Book Review" ""His Illegal Self" develops the kind of emotional impact that renders it enriching and satisfying . . . Carey is still the master . . . The genius of the novel is his portrayal of Che."--"Washington Post Book World" "Carey's often beautiful novel, one of his best recent works, has the bruising tang of all his fiction . . . The result is brilliantly vital . . . On the second page, we [are] caught by a voice, and held for the next two hundred pages . . . Funny and forlorn."--James Wood, "The New Yorker" "Carey once again proves himself to be a master of perspective . . . Visceral and beautifully written . . . Carey reminds us of a time in America when people risked everything for a cause, for the dream of a better country. Ultimately, though, "His Illegal Self" is a love story-one between a young boy, longing for a love from his past, and a woman whose unexpected love for a boy forever alters her fate."--"San Francisco Chronicle" "Carey is a prose Pied Piper, a dazzling stylistwhose work possesses mythic elements. Once he launches into a tale, he's always worth following . . . Carey enters fully into the character of Che, who is neither snarky nor cloying [but] utterly compelling . . . The story moves along at a thriller's pace."--"Miami Herald" "Reading this novel is like peering at the human heart, at the world itself, through the distorted precision of a magnifying glass-one carried in the pocket of a seven-year-old boy . . . One of the wonders of Carey's work is that his great, urgent narratives, so turbulent, so dark, so grand, are at the same time animated by such conscious and playful craft, as well as by a profound comic awareness . . . "His Illegal Self," like his other work, is an adventure story for the modern, tormented soul."--Cathleen Schine, "New York Review of Books" "Carey is a thoroughly modern writer, smashing genre boundaries, ranging in tone from wild comedy to grim tragedy, viewing the past with a decidedly contemporary eye and firmly placing late 20th century adventures in social and cultural context. This breadth of experience and abilities enriches Carey's latest novel.'"-"Los Angeles Times Book Review" "Carey has a matchless imagination. His novels are hallucinogenic in their visual intensity and breathtaking in their Dickensian plot twists . . . The supreme gift to the reader is Carey's portrait of a scared little boy who becomes brave. [It's] the best reason to pick up this novel, sit down and not get up until it's done."-"Seattle Times" "Carey's gift for creating voices is so real that we can almost hear the words. This gift adds to our deep involvement with his characters, who are among the mostsympathetic collection of ruffians, losers and damaged human beings in contemporary literature . . . He has once again created an elegant, touching and often funny story." -Cleveland "Plain Dealer" ""His Illegal Self" [left] me brimming with admiration . . . What's evident right from the start here is how vividly, and tenderly Carey has inhabited his central character . . . There are times when his ability to empathise with a small child recalls, and comes close to matching, "David Copperfield," . . The result is a richly absorbing novel which can be relished for the beauties of its prose and the pertinence of its themes, as well as for the progressively taut pull that it exerts on the emotions."-"Sunday Telegraph "(U.K.) ""His Illegal Self "is a wonderful novel, full of hard-won truths, which nevertheless leaves you with a warm and fuzzy feeling of immense satisfaction ."-"The Evening Standard "(U.K.) "Che is as convincing a child as any I have found in the pages of a book: beady as a boy scout; innocent and yet so knowing; brimming with watery nostalgia for states he has never even known."-"The Observer "(U.K.) "Carey seems to invent himself fresh each time he publishes, finding a different (but always compelling and deeply idiosyncratic) narrative voice, filling each sentence with charm and skill, and utterly sucking a reader in. Here, he has done all that again . . . Carey's achievement here, though, is of a larger order as well, in the way he identifies, creates, rounds out and refines for us the character of Che."-"Canberra Times "(Australia) "A beautiful and emotionally compelling novel . . . There is in this book a fascinating and deeplyintelligent evocation of late '60s, early '70s period detail, but at its core "His Illegal Self "is an ancient and magnificently eerie fairy tale, about a child wise beyond his years, stolen away to the forest, undergoing every kind of mortal trial, and surviving, in a surprising state of luminous grace."-"O Magazine" "A psychologically astute and diabolically suspenseful novel . . . Carey has a gift for bringing to creepy-crawly and blistering life Australia's jungle and desert wilds. His latest spectacularly involving and supremely well made novel of life on the edge begins in New York [and] ends up in Australia . . . Carey's unique take on the conflict between the need to belong and the dream of freedom during the days of rage over the Vietnam War is at once terrifying and mythic."-"Booklist" "Peter Carey is one of the great writers in English now. This book is further proof, a book in which he's created a little boy who is neither too precious nor too wise, a little boy on a sad hard trip with his eyes wide open, watching everything and everyone around him. He makes you think of your own past life and all you felt when you were a kid being played upon and moved about by the adults of the world. This book is another triumph, among Carey's other wonderful books. The man can write. He seems capable of anything."-Kent Haruf "Carey's mastery of tone and command of point of view are very much in evidence in his latest novel, which is less concerned with period-piece politics than with the essence of identity . . . This isn't the first fictional work to explore the militant radical underground of the late 1960s and early '70s, but it may well be the best."-"Kirkus Reviews "(starred)

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