Book Read! ILLYWHACKER by Peter Carey
First sentence: “My name is Herbert Badgery.”
P. 99: “Molly McGrath whimpered and curled her fifty-year old body into a shaking ball beneath the sheets.”
Last sentence: “It will give him strength for the interesting times ahead.”
From the author’s website: In Australian slang, an Illywhacker is a country fair con man, an unprincipled seller of fake diamonds and dubious tonics. And Herbert Badgery, the 139-year-old narrator of Peter Carey’s uproarious novel, may be the king of them all. Vagabond and charlatan, aviator and car salesman, seducer and patriarch, Badgery is a walking embodiment of the Australian national character — especially of its proclivity for tall stories and barefaced lies. As Carey follows this charming scoundrel across a continent and a century, he creates a crazy quilt of outlandish encounters, with characters that include a genteel dowager who fends off madness with an electric belt and a ravishing young girl with a dangerous fondness for rooftop trysts. Boldly inventive, irresistibly odd, Illywhacker is further proof that Peter Carey is one of the most enchanting writers at work in any hemisphere. Illywhacker was shortlisted for the 1985 Booker Prize.
I have a double feeling about this book. While I loved the first 250 pages and the last 200 (total page number: 569), I thought the part in between a bit boring and a bit too long. Perhaps it was the introduction of so much new characters that apparently had nothing to do with the story (although later they did), or the interruption of the main story, I don’t know.
Herbert Badgery is an adventurous man, who tries to make the most of every event that happens in his life and every context and situation he finds himself in… he is a cynic but he is also very spontaneous. But, since he admits on the first page of the book that he is a liar, and since he is the narrator of the story, you begin to wonder if he is indeed the man that you think he is, based on his writings. One thing, however, I think drives him: that is his wish to have a home with a wife and kids and sit with them contently around the table.
If you want to know which books I read so far this year, here is the list.