Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Jack Maggs

Jack Maggs is a 'returned convict' who has appeared in London in the years before Victoria comes to the throne. He is looking for someone. Sentenced to transportation for life; Maggs served his sentence in the penal colony that was to become Australia; but after a pardon and making his fortune he takes the risk of returning illegally to England to seek....his son.
Maggs finds work as a footman in a house visited by a young writer (Tobias Oates) who dabbles in the new art of mesmerism; when Maggs collapses with a facial tic (and probably a migraine) Oates uses his charlatan skills to 'cure' him and in the process he makes Maggs reveal the story of his life. Oates resolves to use the information for his own writing. Maggs and Oates become dependent on one another as the book unfolds.

Maggs' story is reminiscent of that of another famous 'returned convict' in English literature - Magwitch, Pip's unknown benefactor in Great Expectations. And the parallels with Great Expectations are not accidental. Neither are the similarities between Tobias Oates' private life and that of Magwitch's creator....Charles Dickens. Read carefully and you will find other winks to characters from Dickens' works.

Carey has a fine eye for character and dialogue.
As it says on the back of my copy "Oscar and Lucinda [and earlier award winning novel by Carey] may soon have the legend 'by the writer of Jack Maggs' on the cover."
Carey has not lost his touch; Jack Maggs has already won two awards.
Reading this would be perfect here :