True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey

Papers transported to Melbourne inside a metal trunk are the basis of Carey’s story. Broken up into age brackets, it chronicles Ned’s life from his point of view. Events of his life show his humanity. After his father’s passing, Ned felt “there would never be a knot or a rabbit I skun or a horse I rode that I did not see those small eyes watching to see I done it right .” His brothers and sisters remain peripheral to the tale. Carey can write rich stories about complex women. The pivotal character of Ned’s story is his mother, Ellen. A candid portrayal of her giving birth with only 11-year-old Ned to help establishes her strength. Ned’s love of his newborn sister Kate is expressed as he looked into “her eyes so clear and untroubled.” This provides a window into his sensitive nature. The aspirations and successes of this poor rural family is simply stated. Ned was a leader. The community recognition he received when he rescued a drowning boy was one of his proudest moments. These early years and his connection to his mother explain why things evolved as they did in his later life. Carey has taken a myth and replaced it with a real family. We understand them, as they try to survive as selectors in the unmanaged and merciless Australian countryside.

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