Without intending to, I have immersed myself in mid-19th century Oceania with my most recent reads. This one was across the water in the marginally more settled New South Wales. The narration begins in the present day, with a narrator telling us the story of earlier generations and the strange church which is central to their history. Here is my Goodreads review:
In order that I exist, two gamblers, one Obsessive, the other Compulsive, must meet. A door must open at a certain time. Opposite the door, a red plush settee is necessary. The Obsessive, the one with six bound volumes of eight hundred and eighty pages, ten columns per page, must sit on this red settee, the Book of Common Prayer open on his rumpled lap. The Compulsive gambler must feel herself propelled forward from the open doorway. She must travel toward the Obsessive and say an untruth (although she can have no prior knowledge of her own speech): “I am in the habit of making my confession.”
This novel is the story of these two fascinating characters, a headstrong heiress ahead of her time and an odd, socially and physically awkward Anglican priest, both addicted to gambling, both ill at ease in the mid-19th century Sydney where they find themselves trying to build their lives. Peter Carey has crafted a tale of frontier society full of colorful but flawed individuals thrown together, all angling for something to fulfill their various ambitions, many ruthlessly opinionated or judgemental, aping the landed gentry of home whom they hope to be like in this new land.
Going into this book, I was not a big fan of Carey, who has won multiple prizes for his writing. I had read True History of the Kelly Gang a number of years back. Oscar and Lucinda did a better job of winning me over. While Carey is still not an author I will rave about, I will likely look forward to the next book of his I read much more for having taken a journey to Australia with this odd pair of protagonists.