Peter Carey seems to be a great literary secret -- hugely imaginative, immensely readable, a touch surreal, full of startlingly accurate insight into the frailties of humanity, and just plain funny -- but until I came to Australia I hadn't heard of him and his stunningly absorbing novels. His books are TERRIFIC.
Illywhacker is, on one level, a highly absorbing story about a born liar and showman and his varied life across southeastern Australia during the twentieth century. But on a deeper level, Illywhacker is a complex allegory about Australia itself, with interwoven and tangled images of cages, the uses and abuses of lying, Australia's search for itself vs. the UK and US, Australian animals, and Australia's simultaneous entanglement with and rejection of the Asian cultures with which it coexists. The result is a complicated, thoughtful, and even disturbing portrait of a maturing Australia that has made me reassess my own view of the country. Read Illywhacker! for the amusing liar's tale, read Illywhacker for the thoughtful commentary on Australia's national self-consciousness and insecurity -- but either way, read it!