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  1. Some of Peter Carey's books are easier than others. Amnesia is a challenge. The novel claims to be a 21st century tale of cyber-terrorism with criminals let out of jails as their computer systems are infected by a worm. The worm originates in Australia - specifically from a young woman by the name of Gaby Baillieux - although she prefers the handle of Fallen Angel. Intriguing premise. What follows is, in fact, a Cooks tour of Australian politics of the 1970s and 1980s. A washed up journalist, broke after a court found he had stretched the truth just a bit too far, is hired by a business mogul, Woody Townes, to write up Gaby's story in an effort to make her appear more dinky-di Australian and, thereby, reduce the chance of her winding up on an execution gurney somewhere in Hicksville, America. Our journalist friend, Felix Moore, finds himself somewhat sidetracked by his infatuation with Gaby's mother Celine with whom he may or may not once have had an affair, and Woody finds ways to reintroduce focus into Felix's life. The story as told by Felix, in focusing on Celine, looks at the 1975 double dissolution in which the Governor General sacked Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. Felix, or Celine, or Celine's politico partner Sando (it's never quite clear whose voice is speaking) believes the crisis was engineered by the CIA as their access to Pine Gap was threatened. This - or other events - may have inspired Sando to get involved with the Australian Labor Party in Coburg - which scholars of Australian politics will recognise as the seat Bob Hawke was to represent. We get quite a lot of zipping around Melbourne's less lovely suburbs as Celine decides she doesn't like Coburg and would rather live in Brunswick, but ends up living in Springvale. If you live in Melbourne, this means something. Otherwise, all the political, social and racial nuances will be lost. Anyway, we then find that as Felix finds his life becoming more chaotic - think being bundled in the boot of a car and driven around the back roads of Eltham (more cultural associations that only Melburnians will get); or stuck in a Motel in Katoomba - so the narrative gets more fractured. We lose consistent first person narration and drift into third person with supposed reportage of tapes recorded by Celine and Gaby. But these narrations are not clearly signposted, leaving ambiguity as to what is the authentic voice of the women; what is Felix's interpretation - or fantasy - and what is Peter Carey's editorial comment. It's dreamy, hard to pin down, but has moments of lucidity and great beauty. Despite the opacity, the characters feel and sound real. There are many parallels with the real world. Gaby and her friend Frederic, the enfants terrible of modem hacking, add up to make a Julian Assange. Woody Townes is, presumably, Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest. The idea of extraditing a foreign hacker to the US has parallels to Gary McKinnon. Yet, for all these parallels, the story is original. Perhaps this is a failing; the need to tie fictional stories to real locations and identifiable characters is confusing and, at times, it feels as though the characters are voicing Peter Carey's own theories and concerns. It adds up to a work that makes the reader feel somewhat inadequate - a feeling that the novel is probably working on many levels, most of which the reader is missing. I think the lack of accessibility is a big problem with Amnesia. It's a surprise to find Peter Carey writing a novel that appears to be for his own entertainment when, if nothing else, his other work seems to focus on entertaining his readers. ***00
  2. I have just read the last 20 chapters in one sitting. Suddenly, with the engagement of the terrifying Mr Jeffris the story starts to gallop towards it's inevitable conclusion. From that fateful mouthful of Christmas pudding Oscar has made one bad choice after another, and even as we hope for a happy ending with Lucinda, we fear that some disaster will befall them. As I finished it my eyes filled again, as they have done at several points in the story, I was just so sad- for so many of he characters; Oscar, his father, the Strattons, Wardley-Fish, and Lucinda. I will be thinking about them for some time to come.
  3. RESTORED THREAD January 2013 chuntzy 31st May 2011, 12:14 PM Parrot is the nickname of John Larrit. Set initially in late eighteenth century England, Parrot is orphaned when his father is burnt to death along with other ' radical' printers when the works are discovered to be involved in counterfeiting French banknotes. The men are sympathetic to the French revolutionary cause. Carey then shifts focus to France and to the aristocratic young Olivier, terrified of his family being at the mercy of the revolutionaries. There are twists and turns in the narrative, which I admit I had a hard time keeping abreast of, until as young men the two find themselves on a ship for America. Parrot then is Olivier's manservant, writes Olivier's dictated letters, and is a general factotum. At times their paths diverge which allows Carey to portray early 19th century America. Carey has acknowledged the research he's done to get the background right, mostly by studying Alexis de Tocqueville's 'Democracy in America'. I found that whereas the first third of the novel had a liveliness that reminded me of picaresque novels like 'Tom Jones' the story seemed to lose momentum once in the U.S. The livelier episodes are when Parrot shakes off Olivier and meets in New York an amour from his past. Early 19th century N.Y. comes over quite vividly. The aristocratic Olivier through his experiences in this new world gradually shuffles off his old prejudices. By the end Parrot and Olivier become almost equals when they meet up again. The novel didn't quite take off for me. I much preferred his 'Oscar and Lucinda'. _____________________ Grammath 20th October 2011, 02:43 PM This sums up my thoughts too, chuntzy. Carey seems to have created a set-up and then not been sure quite what to do with it. The author certainly likes his dual narratives and oddly matched characters, having performed a similar trick with Theft: A Love Story, the last of his I read. Whilst I warmed to both Parrot and Olivier, I found the novel too meandering for my tastes. I listened to it and, since it is very character driven, I struggled a bit since this kind of book doesn't lend itself well to audio. Carey certainly has some fun along the way, but I don't think I had quite as much fun as he did. __________________ megustaleer 20th October 2011, 03:51 PM Currently listening to this as an unabridged audiobook, and finding Parrot's story far more engaging than Olivier's. So far. _______________________ megustaleer 9th November 2011, 10:52 PM I rather struggled with this, and agree with Grammath that it didn't work too well as an audiobook. I became confused by the way it hopped about in time and location, and I also got confused between some of the characters that influenced Parrot's life. If I had been reading the text I would have been able to look back and find out where the confusion lay - although having to do that would have slowed down the plot and probably have irritated me just as much. There was one beautiful description of a library that I just loved, but sadly it was in the home of a character whose name and purpose in the story I failed to grasp. It was on disc 7 - but I've no idea of which chapter The choice that Olivier made about his future, and the reason for it, annoyed me so much that I lost interest in the rest of the book. _______________________ MisterHobgoblin 10th November 2011, 03:18 AM I read this a year ago and posted the following review on Amazon at the time: I didn't report here (I think) because I wasn't terribly proud of my thoughts - they didn't really get across the richness I found in the text and, in particular, how intriguing I found the Parrot narrative. Nevertheless, I did want to add some positive comment to the thread to balance it out a bit. This would have been my choice for the 2010 Booker Prize and I believe it was the choice of two of the five judges, too. I haven't read the Howard Jacobson and don't intend too, but I suspect it was a poor choice to beat this fine work. __________________ megustaleer 10th November 2011, 08:47 AM I'm sure that I would have enjoyed this much more if I had read the text, rather than listened to it. I have enjoyed all the novels I've read by Peter Carey With my poor retention I really need to be able to refer back in a novel as complex as this, and that's not so easily done with audio. My problem, not the book's.
  4. I'm about a quarter of the way through this book and it is gripping so far. Is there anyone out there who has just read it, reading it or about to start! I'd love to discuss the details...
  5. I had no idea what this forum was about until I woke in the middle of last night to hear Peter Carey talking on the World Service about the trip he made with his young son, a Manga and Anime addict, to Japan to research into the roots of Manga (A bit like Top Cat, and his travels with a teenager into the history of rock!!) I thought manga fans in BGO might find it interesting. Synopsis In a stunning memoir-cum-travelogue Peter Carey charts this journey and his own re-evaluation of Japan through his attempt to understand its culture of animated film and cartoon. With an appeal that spans the generations, these cartoons are violent and disturbing but also inherently concerned with Japan's rich history and heritage. Led by their adolescent guide Takashi, father and son look for the puzzles and meanings hiding within manga and anime, searching for what they call their own 'real Japan'. From Manhattan to Tokyo, and Commodore Perry to Godzilla, by way of the Atomic bomb, Wrong about Japan is a fascinating and personal exploration of two very different cultures.
  6. One of his university 'pals?' calls him Oddbod. Well, you can't really disagree with that. Carey gives us a vivid mental picture of Oscar and certainly doesn't cast him in any heroic mould. By turns he's painful to look at and painful to be with. Perversely, perhaps, I wanted him to succeed in some worldly way which isn't the point at all I acknowledge.
  7. I have been struck by the similarities in Oscar and Lucinda's characters. Both have been brought up in fairly isolated circumstances by parents of strong opinions. Both are quite self-willed and stubborn, and both are overtaken by a strong passion - Oscar by a passion for gambling, and Lucinda for the glass factory. I am looking forward to seeing how things progress. I can't think that either passion will lead to a happy conclusion, and with two such strong personalities, there are bound to be fireworks once they meet.
  8. I really enjoyed this book, the characters events, descriptions and language but for some reason it was a book I had to read really slowly, I seemed to read for an hour and not have managed many pages. Did anyone else hae this issue?
  9. I knew in the first few pages that I was going to enjoy this book. Clearly there was something interesting to come, from the obsessive and territorial attitude of the mother to her grandfather and the little church out at Gleniffer, and the feelings of jealousy that aroused in her husband. I love his reference to her walking "around the perimiter of St John's like a dog pissing around a fence". The Advent Wreath scene is very telling. To use the fusewire, and leave the house without any, demonstrates the high priority the church (this particular church building) had for the mother, and her husband was justifiably enraged - but she was convinced that God confirmed the correctness of her action by restoring the power. I can see her stubborn adherence to her opinions as a direct link to her great-grandfather, Oscar's father, Theophilus. There is something Hardyesque about the story of the rift between Oscar and his father. I am always moved by stories where the characters are unable to express their feelings, and misinterpret the words and actions of others. The story of Theophilus is one of turbulent emotion held in strict control by the rigorous teaching of The Plymouth Brethren. Oscar is brought to question everything his father stands for by the discovery of just one small crack in the edifice of righteousness he has been brought up to believe in. Having discovered his father to be in error, Oscar cannot do otherwise than seek The Truth for himself - however painful it is for both. I was brought almost to tears at this passage, when the two of them met on the Combe, having been apart for three months.
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