Title: Jack Maggs (Signed)
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, New York
Publication Date: 1998
Book Condition: Fine
Dust Jacket Condition: Fine
Signed: Signed by Author(s)
Edition: First Edition.
Signed by Carey on the title page. Bookseller Inventory # GK2151
Synopsis: "Jack Maggs is a dazzling tale of obsession, and Jack Maggs stands as a remarkable character, a resurrected antipodean lag returned to England for vengeance and reconciliation."
From the Booker Prize-winning author, a vivid and robust novel of Dickensian London--a place and a story teeming with mystery, science, and passion.
The time, the 1830s. Jack Maggs, a foundling trained in the fine arts of thievery, cruelly betrayed and deported to Australia, has now reversed his fortunes--and seeks to fulfill his well-concealed, innermost desire. Returning "home" under threat of execution, he inveigles his way into a household in Great Queen Street, where he's quickly embroiled in various emotional entanglements--and where he falls under the hypnotic scrutiny of Tobias Oates, a celebrated young writer fascinated by the process of mesmerism and obsessed with the criminal mind.
From this volatile milieu emerges a handful of vividly drawn characters in the dangerous pursuit of love, whether romantic or familial--each of them with secrets, and secret longings, that could spell certain ruin. And as their various schemes converge, the captivating figure at the center is Jack Maggs himself, at once frightening, mystifying, and utterly compelling.
"Imaginative and audacious . . . A twentieth-century, post-colonial Dickens novel . . . This strange, bold, gripping, and wonderful novel is the story of a power struggle, a double love story, a quest story, and a story of trickery and disguise. It's about taking possession--of an inheritance, of another person's soul, of your own destiny--and being taken possession of. Not least, it's the story of one writer's being possessed by another."
--Hermione Lee, The Observer
"Uncommonly exciting and engaging. As much as anyone now writing, Peter Carey is a master of storytelling. His empathy with his characters, combined with his psychological sharp-sightedness, has them almost jumping off the page in full human complexity. An especial bonus is his style . . . Vivid, exact, unexpected images and language match the quick, witty intelligence flickering through this novel, and make it a triumph of ebullient indictment, humane insight, and creative generosity."
--Peter Kemp, Sunday Times (London)
"Writing and philosophical contemplations of the highest order . . . On a par with, and more interesting than, his two earlier masterpieces . . . An absorbing, beautifully written novel finished off with a most satisfactory happy ending, and with incidents, an atmosphere, and ideas that linger in the mind."
--Carmen Callil, The Daily Telegraph
Review: As a novelist, Peter Carey is hardly a stranger to the 19th century: his Oscar and Lucinda was a veritable treasure-trove of Victoriana. In this novel, however, Carey has set himself an even more complicated task--reinterpreting not only a vanished era but one of that era's masterpieces. Jack Maggs is a variation on Great Expectations, in which Dickens's tale is told from the viewpoint of Australian convict Abel Magwitch. The names, it's true, have been tinkered with, but the book's literary paternity is unmistakable. So, too, is the post- colonial spin that Carey puts on Dickens's material: this time around, the prodigal Maggs is perceived less as an invading alien than a righteous (if not particularly welcome) refugee.
Of course, rewriting a page-turner from the past offers some major perils, not the least of them being comparisons to the original. Carey, however, more than withstands the test of time, alluding to the formality of Victorian prose without ever bending over backward to duplicate it. In addition, his eye for physical detail--and the ways in which such details open small or large windows onto character--is on par with that of Dickens. Here, for example, he pins down both the body and soul of a household servant: "Miss Mott was lean and sinewy and there was nowhere much for such a violent shiver to hide itself. Consequently it went right up her spine and disappeared inside her little white cap and then, just when it seemed lost, it came out the other side and pulled up the ends of her thin mouth in a grimace." Throw in a wicked mastery of period slang, a subplot about Victorian mesmerism (of which Dickens was, in fact, a practitioner) and an amazing storytelling gift, and you have a novel which meets and exceeds almost any expectation one might bring to it.
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