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enough about Australian history to fully read Herbert Badgery as a stand-in for Australia itself, or to catch the many historical references that Carey has probably hidden in the book.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.