Monday, June 2, 2008
His Illegal Self by Peter Carey (a review)
3 out of 5: Seven-year-old Che, the son of absent revolutionaries, lives with his grandmother on New York’s Upper East Side. One day, a woman named Dial, who Che believes is his mother, whisks him away from everything familiar. Che and Dial end up at a hippie commune in the Australian outback. In an academic sense, I recognize the talent behind Carey’s sensitive and nuanced portrayal of the mother-son relationship, but I didn’t really enjoy reading this novel. For one thing, the Australian outback sounds terribly grim. Everyone is rude or weird, dusty, and hungry. For another thing, a good bit of the narrative is improbable. Why Australia? There’s also a nudist who doesn’t really have a well-understood place in the story. Overall, His Illegal Self lacks cohesion and appeal despite the masterful depiction of Che’s relationship to Dial.