Peter Carey’s novel True History of the Kelly Gang is widely renowned for its intriguing and colourful fictionalised depiction of the people and events of the Ned Kelly story. In this video he discusses his thoughts on the Kelly story and his approach to telling his own version of the story and reads a portion of the text as well.
Carey’s book plays, as many of his stories do, with the notion of the unreliable narrator, hence the deceptive title “True History” implying the subjectivity of truth. In emulating an essence of Ned’s voice from the Jerilderie letter he crafts a narrative that is emotionally charged and multi-layered, though not without questionable choices (the “Sons of Sieve” sub-plot is of note here). Carey’s understanding of the Kelly story is demonstrably strong and lends a sense of authenticity to the text, perhaps the reason why so many even to this day believe that this is a factual account. With Justin Kurzel, the man behind the recent Assassin’s Creed film, taking on the task of adapting this novel (a task abandoned by Neil Jordan in the early 2000s) it will be interesting to see if Kelly-mania once again sweeps the nation as it did when the novel won the Booker Prize in 2001.