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Illywacker [Mass Market Paperback]

Peter Carey
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 3 1985
From the author of OSCAR AND LUCINDA and JACK MAGGS, a humorous novel narrated by the 109-year-old 'illywhacker', or confidence trickster, of the title, who recalls jokes, inventions and characters from his life.

Product Details

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

First published in 1985, this picaresque tale from Australian novelist Carey presents the life story of a highly unreliable 139-year-old con man.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.


"One of the funniest, most vividly depicted, most entertainingly devious and bitterly insightful pieces of fiction to be published in recent years." —Newsday

"Carey can spin a yarn with the best of them.... Illywhacker is a big, garrulous, funny novel.... If you haven't been to Australia, read Illywhacker. It will give you the feel of it like nothing else I know." —The New York Times Book Review

"A book of awesome breadth, ambition, and downright narrative joy.... Illywhacker is a triumph." —Washington Post Book World --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Illywhacker, Whacky, Carey March 21 2001
Although the cover of this book has a quote from Newsday calling it "one of the funniest...", I never found myself laughing. Maybe a smile occasionally, but no laughs certainly. I kept wondering, what on earth is this book about?? When I was nearing the finish (a mighty 600 pages), I rushed to see what the main point was, but as I half-heartedly predicted, there was no answer. Don't get me wrong, I REALLY enjoyed this story! I was frequently flabbergasted by the strange, surreal, quirky happenings! There seemed to be meanings in everything, but not without taking some time to think about it, for the meanings weren't thrown in your face. So much went on that I feel as though I've read five books! I CAN say that this book is the life story of a man named Herbert Badgery. You will not soon forget this name, nor the abundance of bizarre characters in "Illywhacker".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Grotesque and interesting Aug. 2 2000
By Ruth
Perhaps this is not the best thing that Peter Carey wrote, but that's not really saying much. Ah, Peter Carey, writing at length about Australia without ever resorting to cliches. If you are not Australian, I don't think you can really understand what a relief it is to read something like this about Australia. First of all, there is a nationalistic hero (nationalism and pride in (white) Australia is something so rare that the novelty is enough to sustain the entire book); secondly, the characters (including the women) are interesting and convincing; thirdly, I am completely homesick and this is so Australian; fourthly, he creates a new kind of poetry (new to me anyway). I didn't like the part about snake dancing, and the characters change too quickly (for example, Charles and Phoebe) and you kind of lose the thread. I like the way he dances about with truth, and I like the deep sadness about us losing our identity (whether or not it's true). I recognize a lot of the characters and the patterns of events from my own relatives and ancestors. I've never seen these things outside Australia, and you forget them, so thank goodness someone's documenting it all. This is so impressive if it's his first book. Read it.
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Carey is an excellent storyteller, with a gift for witty juxtaposition and dropping plot bombs on his readers. We've all known someone a little bit like Herbert Badgery: "I am a liar. I am one hundred and thirty-seven years old." So it's a shaggy-dog story about a pathological liar who has a lot of charm and can lead people to believe exactly what they'd like to believe in the first place.
However, this book has garnered many awards, and wide critical acclaim, and I don't see why. Many people say it is symbolic of Australian culture and history. Perhaps I, as an American who hasn't even been to Australia, don't know enough about Australian history to fully read Herbert Badgery as a stand-in for Australia itself, or to catch the many historical references that Carey has probably hidden in the book. Yet my position is likely similar to that of most of Carey's prospective readers; he cannot assume a deep knowledge of Australian history from someone who is just picking up the book as a pleasure read. Maybe I will give the book another try, this time explicitly trying to dissect it as an analogy and as "great literature." Right now, I can only see it as a pleasurable and fairly simple read.
In summary, this is a highly entertaining novel, even if its headier aspects are lost on many readers. Carey is a long-winded storyteller, but a very funny one, and the interweaving plot of Badgery, his mythical airplane factory, and the people who surround him is engaging and humorous.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Pales in comparison to 'Bliss' Jan. 4 2000
Had Illywhacker been my first encounter with Carey, I would likely have enjoyed it more. But I've read Bliss. And Bliss is brilliant.
Carey is a great writer, but his editor was too nice with this one. This book could be half as long, without losing any of the characters, descriptions, or plot twists that Carey is capable of.
It starts off well enough, but there are blocks in which nothing happens, and it gets boring. I hate it when books get boring.
Also, the ending is far too preachy and doesn't seem to jive with the rest of the book.
There's another Bliss in there, but it's bogged down by an extra 200 pages that keep this book from really flying.
An enjoyable read, nonetheless.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Help Me Understand... Aug. 30 1999
By A. Ross
I hate to confess this, but this is one of those books I read and enjoyed on the surface level, but whose more meaningful level I did not understand at all. The writing is extremely good--Carey evokes specific places and moods quite well and I was thoroughly engrossed the whole way through. It is enjoyable simply as a series of well-told tales are, but as an allegory of Australian history and national character, it eluded me. Someone please explain it to me!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Fun, deep, and frustrating April 20 1999
By A Customer
I very much enjoyed reading this novel. The robust prose, the thoughtful characterizations, the bursts of poetry, and the sustained pride in being a (white) Australian were all fantastic. However, this book of 600 pages never really lets you care about the narrator, which grew more and more problematic. After so long, you want to feel more for the story-teller. I was, however, entranced by the sense of righteousness about being a white Australian, and found the treatment of racism towards Asians constantly provocative. At the same time, for a book so preoccupied with Australia, it was strangely devoid of Aborigines and their plight at the hands of Europeans. I also found the ending tacked on and hardly worthy of the gusto of the rest of the book. Nonetheless, a pleasant, fascinating read.
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