Synopses & Reviews
In Australian slang, an illywhacker is a country fair con man, an unprincipled seller of fake diamonds and dubious tonics. And Herbert Badgery, the 139-year-old narrator of Peter Carey's uproarious novel, may be the king of them all. Vagabond and charlatan, aviator and car salesman, seducer and patriarch, Badgery is a walking embodiment of the Australian national character especially of its proclivity for tall stories and barefaced lies. As Carey follows this charming scoundrel across a continent and a century, he creates a crazy quilt of outlandish encounters, with characters that include a genteel dowager who fends off madness with an electric belt and a ravishing young girl with a dangerous fondness for rooftop trysts. Boldly inventive, irresistibly odd, Illywhacker is further proof that Peter Carey is one of the most enchanting writers at work in any hemisphere.
"Carey can spin a yarn with the best of them....[A] big, garrulous, funny novel....If you haven't been to Australia, read Illywhacker. It will give you the feel of it like nothing else I know." The New York Times Book Review
"A book of awesome breadth, ambition, and downright narrative joy....Illywhacker is a triumph." Washington Post Book World
"The writing is continuously various and engaging, and always hovering on mockery." April Bernard, New York Review of Books
"[B]ulge[s] with action and fantasy, a picaresque narrative as lively as anything by Saul Bellow, though it also demonstrate[s] what is probably Carey's greatest formal weakness, a tendency toward soufflé in his novels so that the middle of the book sags." Peter Porter, Times Literary Supplement (U.K.)
The history of twentieth-century Australia is seen through the exploits and adventures of conman Herbert Badgery, as the 139-year-old "illywhacker" recalls his diverse careers as an aviator, car salesman, seducer, patriarch, and snake catcher.
About the Author
Peter Carey received the Booker Prize for Oscar and Lucinda, and again for True History of the Kelly Gang. His other honors include the Commonwealth Prize and the Miles Franklin Award. The author of seven previous novels and a collection of stories, he was born in Australia in 1943 and now lives in New York City.