Surprisingly, this remarkable novel has a stubborn realism about it. For all the strange stories within the tale, several of the characters have an unusual solidity. In addition, the context of the Great Depression lends the narrative a gritty feel. While there is plenty of humour in the text, the harshness of Australian society between the wars is no laughing matter.
Peter Carey is an artist who has produced a wide range of work. His originality must be one of the factors behind his considerable success. Nevertheless, this long story underlines that hard work has also been critical to his numerous achievements.
It is hard to identify serious flaws in this book. However, some female readers may be alienated by the somewhat chauvinistic attitudes which the main character evinces. In places, it can be quite an uncomfortable journey. Despite this, interesting questions about the nature of deceit are posed:
“‘A lie,’ I said, ‘is something that isn’t true at the moment you say it.'”