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Oscar and Lucinda [Paperback]

Peter Carey
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)

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Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Dec 13 2000
Oscar and Lucinda is the best book by my favourite living author. I am a failed writer, and it is thanks to authors as talented as Peter Carey (and there are only a handful) that I chose to give up: I couldn't possibly hope to capture human life on the page, with all its infinite possibilities, as beautifully, gracefully, amusingly and touchingly as Peter Carey. As Angela Carter writes on the dust jacket of my copy, "It fills me with a wild, savage envy, and no novelist could say fairer than that". I am currently half way through my second reading of Oscar and Lucinda, and I know what is in store for me. I am prepared to sob like a child, and I am relishing it.
Set in England and Australia in the nineteenth century, the novel is essentially about the precariousness of existence and how people's lives are constructed by chance. Its essence is perhaps best captured in Oscar's speech to Lucinda on the ship Leviathan: "Our whole faith is a wager...We bet that there is a God. We bet our life on it...We must stake everything on the unprovable fact of His existence". And so they sit down to a game of cards.
Objectivity is perhaps an unattainable goal. When I recommend Oscar and Lucinda to my friends, they generally enjoy it. But this is not enough for me. I want them to feel it as keenly as I do - that Carey is an astonishing writer, possessed of an imagination, intelligence, wit and compassion, and the ability to imbue his writing with these qualities, unrivalled by any living author. And that Oscar and Lucinda is a strange, evocative, beautiful, tender novel which will make them laugh and make them cry and make them wish it would never end. I hope this is recommendation enough.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An epic of obsession Jan. 22 1998
By A Customer
Oscar and Lucinda are a pair of unusual characters , both victims of childhood trauma, who share a weakness for gambling and a penchant for obsessions of all kinds. Carey might have created a simple romance here about two misfits who find each other, and on the surface that is indeed what happens; however, the story is far more complex and is peopled with assorted other characters that give the book added richness. Mr. d'Abbs, Mr. Jeffris, the Strattons, Oscar's father, Theophilus, and others serve to demonstrate that we are all subject to our own foibles and obsessions. One of Carey's messages is clearly that none of us is "normal"; that behind the mask we wear for society lurks a mass of insecurities and imperfections. Oscar and Lucinda give each other what they each seem to need, and it is not at all what the reader expects. If this book has a fault, it may lie in the sometimes disjointed method of narration. It can be intrusive. However, the identity of the narrator--not revealed until the end of the novel--is a nifty twist itself. A challenging read that is well worth the effort.
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4.0 out of 5 stars People in Glass Houses May 1 2002
Peter Carey's Oscar and Lucinda is a historical journey into the experience of coming of age within a developing nation. The two main characters find this out within the progression of time. Oscar Hopkins is the son of puritan, harassed and harangued by his father to follow his faith. Oscar becomes more and more anxious about puritanism and his father and hides out in the yard of the Anglican priest. From there his life is changed forever.
Linda Leplastrier is a repressed free spirit, who after her mother dies discovers gambling via friendly card games. It is this pursuit that leads her to a friendship with Oscar.
The book is very good, well written and keeps you interested, my only problem is that it is a little flat in parts; this only happens occasionally however and the result is an excellent story. There is a great metaphor in the book of the crystal church; life is like a glasshouse, you can look out and others can see in. Your house/self can easily be broken, shattered or destroyed. I truly enjoyed this book and would highly recommend it for lovers of colonial history, who enjoy a very well written and researched story.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Anglo-Australian Eccentricities Jan. 19 2002
The story of Oscar Hopkins who, despite being the son of a Baptist (or because of that), becomes an Anglican priest. And the story of Lucinda Leplastrier, who inherits a glass factory in Australia.
The early parts of the novel, in fact nearly the first half of it, are taken up with Oscar and Lucinda's life stories up until the time they meet. Carey switches the narrative between England and Australia, and does so with skill - the chapters are short, helping the reader skip along with the story.
Thereafter, as Oscar and Lucinda meet and they agree on an ultimate bet (the plot device which underpins the latter half of the novel) I thought that the pace and flow of the novel slowed. The real problem I had with it though, and why I think I struggled to maintain an interest the longer the novel went on, was that in fact its characters are very two-dimensional. All, without exception, are eccentrics, reminding me of the worst of Dickens: a series of whimsical characters whose quirks are supposed to amuse and interest the reader. I'm afraid for me, that kind of stuff has a very limited effect, and my boredom threshold is reached very quickly.
To be fair, one could make an argument that Lucinda's character is more fully drawn. Her obsession with gambling could be interpeted as a way of seeking acceptance in the male-dominated world of the mid-nineteenth century. She struggles with the burden of her inheritance and with her feminity - for example, Oscar gains the instant acceptance from her workers she has never had when he visits her glass factory, and she resents that.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars transforms my soul
I've read thousands of books in my lifetime and I would say that Oscar and Lucinda is one of my top five. I'm currently rereading the book for the third time. Read more
Published on Nov. 26 2010 by Carrie
5.0 out of 5 stars Oscar Winner
For the first couple of, short, chapters I wondered whether this was my type of book. It was.
We meet the appropriately nick-named 'Odd Bodd' Hopkins, whose appearance is as... Read more
Published on Nov. 6 2001 by S. Cornforth
5.0 out of 5 stars Inevitable
Yes, as the reviewer below me points out, if you are a reader of romance novels, this one is not for you. Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Inevitable
Yes, as the reviewer below me points out, if you are a reader of romance novels, this one is not for you. Read more
Published on Aug. 4 2001
2.0 out of 5 stars Way too Slow
I thought that this book was going to be a romance. The title characters did not meet each other until page 193! Read more
Published on June 7 2001 by Karen P. Parnell
2.0 out of 5 stars Not everybody loves this book
If I hadn't read this book, the praises garnered would make me think I've missed out on something wonderful. Read more
Published on Feb. 15 2001 by "serracus"
5.0 out of 5 stars explosive
Immediately after I finished reading 'Oscar and Lucinda' I went to the bookstore to buy 'The unusual life of Tristan Smith'... . Why do I give this book a 5 stare rating ? Read more
Published on Feb. 9 2001 by Kiki De Boeck
5.0 out of 5 stars A book can transport you
This book satisfied so many of my senses. The beauty and richness of the language, the originality of the characters, the surprises, the disappointments, all transported me into... Read more
Published on Jan. 8 2001 by Amazon Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars A bitter disappointment. SPOILERS!!
Never have I been so cruelly used and deceived by a book before! I read about the trials and tribulations of Oscar and Lucinda with a warm glow in my heart knowing that everything... Read more
Published on Jan. 4 2001 by Emma Bowen
5.0 out of 5 stars Almost as good as 'Bliss'
Having read Carey's first novel, 'Bliss', I really didn't think he could write something as good. Luckily for him, and me, and anyone else who reads 'Oscar and Lucinda', he's come... Read more
Published on July 30 2000 by Steve Gold
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