By L.S. Klepp
February 09, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

True History of the Kelly Gang

B+
type
  • Book

If you were wondering what life was like in the 19th-century Australian outback, it wasn’t easy. Neither is the latest work from the best living Australian novelist — a fictional portrait of Ned Kelly, a kind of Down Under Jesse James, it’s written in a run-on, furtively lyrical Irish-Australian patois: ”I pursued him outside the sky were dusk white above the black umbrellas of the gums Joe Byrne had mighty thighs & calves he were noisy as a wombat crashing up the scrubby hill …” Kelly himself remains frustratingly elusive, but once you get used to it, the language conveys a hard authenticity of frontier detail to match Carey’s uncanny resurrection of Dickensian London in Jack Maggs or the genteel Australia of Oscar and Lucinda. B+

True History of the Kelly Gang

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