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This month the chain starts with Peter Carey’s Booker Prize-winning novel from 2000, True History of the Kelly Gang. The novel gives voice to the legendary criminal and Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. To the authorities in pursuit of him, outlaw Ned Kelly is a horse thief, bank robber and police-killer. Nevertheless, to his fellow ordinary Australians, Kelly is their own Robin Hood. In a dazzling act of ventriloquism, Peter Carey brings the famous bushranger wildly and passionately to life.
Another possible criminal is brought to life in See What I Have Done, Sarah Schmidt’s debut novel that recasts the fascinating case of Lizzie Borden – who may, or may not have murdered her father and stepmother – into an intimate story of a volatile household and a family devoid of love. In that novel, Schmidt dramatizes the moment when Lizzie Borden’s father kills her beloved pigeons.
A pigeon massacre also takes place in Douglas Stuart’s latest novel Young Mungo. This coming-of-age narrative depicts an emotional yet dangerous love affair between two young men, Mungo and James, growing up in working-class Glasgow in the early 1990s. The pair are star-crossed lovers in a city besieged by gang violence and riven by the sectarian Protestant-Catholic divide.
A different side of Glasgow is also on display in The Cutting Room by Louise Welsh. When Rilke, a dissolute and promiscuous auctioneer, comes upon a hidden collection of violent and highly disturbing photographs, he feels compelled to unearth more about the deceased owner who coveted them. What follows is a journey into the darkest recesses that lurk behind respectable facades.
An auctioneer with more nefarious intentions features in Joan Samson’s 1970s horror classic The Auctioneer. In an isolated New Hampshire farming community where little has changed over the past several decades, John Moore and his wife Mim do their best to maintain the family farm and live a modest, hardworking life. However, from the moment the charismatic Perly Dunsmore arrives in town, soliciting donations for his auctions, the community of Harlowe slowly and insidiously starts to change. Soon the townsfolk find themselves gradually but inexorably stripped of their freedom, their possessions, and perhaps even their lives.
Bad things happening in small towns is a feature of another classic horror tale The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. In a small American town, the local residents are abuzz with excitement and nervousness when they wake on the morning of June 27. Everything has been prepared for the town’s annual tradition—a lottery in which every family must participate, and no one wants to win.
A lottery features in one of the stories in Peter Carey’s 1993 collection The Fat Man in History. The stories in this collection all pose different questions and are all set in the near future, after an unspecified revolution in which the social and political world has changed. In the story The Chance, physical beauty is now seen as an unacceptable privilege and people can entire a genetic lottery where they are assigned a more grotesque and ugly body.
So there we have it, from Peter Carey via dead pigeons, auctioneers and lotteries and back to Peter Carey again, these are my 6 Degrees of Separation for May! Have you read any of these books or are there any that take your fancy?
I am a 40 something book buying addict trying to reduce the backlog one book at a time!