Jack Maggs

Jack Maggs

Book - 1998
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"Jack Maggs is a dazzling tale of obsession, and Jack Maggs stands as a remarkable character, a resurrected antipodean lag returned to England for vengeance and reconciliation." --Thomas Keneally From the Booker Prize-winning author, a vivid and robust novel of Dickensian London--a place and a story teeming with mystery, science, and passion. The time, the 1830s. Jack Maggs, a foundling trained in the fine arts of thievery, cruelly betrayed and deported to Australia, has now reversed his fortunes--and seeks to fulfill his well-concealed, innermost desire. Returning "home" under threat of execution, he inveigles his way into a household in Great Queen Street, where he's quickly embroiled in various emotional entanglements--and where he falls under the hypnotic scrutiny of Tobias Oates, a celebrated young writer fascinated by the process of mesmerism and obsessed with the criminal mind. From this volatile milieu emerges a handful of vividly drawn characters in the dangerous pursuit of love, whether romantic or familial--each of them with secrets, and secret longings, that could spell certain ruin. And as their various schemes converge, the captivating figure at the center is Jack Maggs himself, at once frightening, mystifying, and utterly compelling. "Imaginative and audacious . . . A twentieth-century, post-colonial Dickens novel . . . This strange, bold, gripping, and wonderful novel is the story of a power struggle, a double love story, a quest story, and a story of trickery and disguise. It's about taking possession--of an inheritance, of another person's soul, of your own destiny--and being taken possession of. Not least, it's the story of one writer's being possessed by another." --Hermione Lee, The Observer "Uncommonly exciting and engaging. As much as anyone now writing, Peter Carey is a master of storytelling. His empathy with his characters, combined with his psychological sharp-sightedness, has them almost jumping off the page in full human complexity. An especial bonus is his style . . . Vivid, exact, unexpected images and language match the quick, witty intelligence flickering through this novel, and make it a triumph of ebullient indictment, humane insight, and creative generosity." --Peter Kemp, Sunday Times (London) "Writing and philosophical contemplations of the highest order . . . On a par with, and more interesting than, his two earlier masterpieces . . . An absorbing, beautifully written novel finished off with a most satisfactory happy ending, and with incidents, an atmosphere, and ideas that linger in the mind." --Carmen Callil, The Daily Telegraph
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.
Edition: 1st American ed.
ISBN: 9780679440086
Branch Call Number: CARE
Characteristics: 306p. 24cm.


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Jul 20, 2016

I usually love Carey's novels, but I picked this up and put it down having read only the first chapter. Then, coincidentally, I decided to revisit Great Expectations. In my copy, there was additional information about the book and stories inspired by it, and Jack Maggs was mentioned. So having finished Great Expectations, I returned to Jack Maggs, and this time found it much more compelling. Because I had just been immersed in Dickens' world, the world of Jack Maggs now felt very familiar and very vivid. I think the best way to approach this story is fresh off a reading of Great Expectations!

FindingJane Jul 29, 2014

It is strange how the passage of time can alter perception, can cast a new light on what we thought was a firm and fixed memory. The mere turn of two years has brought me to a deep appreciation of this book that I once considered deadly dull.

In my initial consideration, the fault lay with the titular character. Jack Maggs reveals himself at the very onset as a scoundrel, one equally prone to mild, constant deception and capable of vile murder. His character is laid out in the author’s prose so quickly that there is little room for any other interpretation of him—and characters that are shown at the outset to be absolute villains are as boring as those who are complete saints. Such was my assessment of Jack Maggs when I first read about him and therefore I couldn’t bring myself to read more than the first chapter. I laid aside the book—forever, I thought.

However, as time wore on, the incomplete reading gnawed at me, as any uncompleted urgent chore will worry the mind of someone who is given to finish any welcome task. Thus, steeling myself to the business, I determined to finish.

What I found was a revelation. England is revealed in all her nature, from the grime to the glitter, from wealth to poverty. Her many peoples dance across the pages as Mr. Carey fills them in, either with in-depth probing or the quick sketchings of a street artist. In doing so, he brings to life one of fiction’s most enigmatic personages, one who becomes a catalyst in the life of another.

I was more than 200 pages into the novel when the revelation of this “personality” struck me. I experienced then the wild glee of any bibliophile who ever read a book and wanted to shout “AHA! I SEE IT!” It was as though the author himself stood by my side, having led me by winding but sure paths to this point, and smiled at me, pleased that one of his readers should grasp his point.

This revelation is so good, so titillating to the true literature buff that I refuse to spoil it here. Let anyone who seeks to probe this mystery read the book. It is supremely worthy of the effort.

Jan 07, 2008

An earthy and compelling rejigging of Dickens' Great Expectations, with a wonderful cast of characters.


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FavouriteFiction Oct 03, 2009

Based on a character from the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.


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Jan 07, 2008

It was a Saturday night when the man with the red waistcoat arrived in London. It was to be precise, six of the clock on Saturday the fifteenth of April in the year of 1837 that those hooded eyes looked out of the window of the Dover coach and beheld, in the bright aura of gas light, a golden bull and an overgrown mouth opening to devour him - the sign of his inn, The Golden Ox.

The Rocket (as his coach was aptly named) rattled in through the archway to the inn's yard and the passengers, who had hitherto found the stranger so taciturn, now noted the silver-capped cane - which had begun to tap the floor at Westminster Bridge - commence a veritable tattoo.

He was a tall man in his forties, so big in the chest and broad in the shoulder that his fellows on the bench seat had felt the strain of his presence, but what his occupation was, or what he planned to do in London, they had not the least idea.


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