Oscar and Lucinda, by Peter Carey

This book tells the life story of Oscar Hopkins, who begins his life in the 1840s, living with his sternly religious father on the Devon coast. Oscar has a faith of his own, but he and his father disagree about certain matters and Oscar leaves home to study theology and become a churchman, eventually emigrating to Australia. On the boat he meets Lucinda, who's life story we've also been given. Lucinda is returning to Australia after a journey to England (the purpose of which I can't remember now); she earlier inherited money with which she bought a glass factory. Together Oscar and Lucinda make a plan to build a church of glass.

I've had this book for over ten years and just got around to reading it. It reminded me a bit of John Irving, with an unusual character as a protagonist who's basically a good person struggling to overcome some kind of personal defect (in Oscar's case it's gambling), and a slightly surreal plotline.

Looking back on the book now, I feel like I should have enjoyed it more, but in fact I found it a real struggle to get through it. There were only a couple of chapters (out of 110 chapters) where the story gripped me, and for the rest it was quite an effort. The section at the end with the glass church rather baffled me: I tried (unsuccessfully) to work out the metaphorical meaning of the episode, since I found it hard to believe that the characters would actually have done this.

There were some good descriptive passages in here, one of which particularly stuck in my mind: a bright sunny day is called "clay-white".

Completed : 23-Apr-2004

Released with BookCrossing id : 224-1602561

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