His Illegal Self (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
In Peter Carey’s novel His Illegal Self, seven-year-old Che Selkirk has been living with his grandmother since he was two, because his politically radical mother was charged with a bank robbery and has been fleeing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) ever since. To shield him from knowledge of his outlaw parents, Grandmother Selkirk keeps the boy in her isolated home on Kenoza Lake in upstate New York, only occasionally staying at her Upper East Side apartment. There, one day, a tall blond woman named Dial steps off the elevator, and Che mistakenly believes her to be his mother. He willingly accompanies her and his grandmother on a brief shopping trip to Bloomingdale’s, after which Che is to meet secretly with his mother and then be returned to his grandmother. Things, however, go terribly wrong. The arranged meeting in New York is changed to Philadelphia, then canceled when Che’s mother is killed planting a bomb. In a panic, Dial essentially kidnaps the boy, taking him to Seattle, where he fleetingly sees his father, then finally to Australia, where the rest of the novel takes place and where Che and Dial endure physical, emotional, and relational trials that change their lives profoundly.
Carey’s thirteenth novel, like those before it, ventures into experimental territory, though with characters less strange, idiosyncratic, and...
(The entire section is 1928 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of this article. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Booklist 104, no. 6 (November 15, 2007): 5.
Kirkus Reviews 75, no. 21 (November 1, 2007): 1116.
Library Journal 133, no. 1 (January 1, 2008): 80.
London Review of Books 30, no. 5 (March 6, 2008): 16.
New York 41, no. 6 (February 18, 2008): 61-62.
The New York Review of Books 55, no. 4 (March 20, 2008): 12-14.
The New York Times, February 5, 2008, p. 1.
The New York Times Book Review, February 10, 2008, p. 14.
People 69, no. 7 (February 25, 2008): 54.
Publishers Weekly 254, no. 40 (October 8, 2007): 34.
Review of Contemporary Fiction 28, no. 1 (Spring, 2008): 183-184.
The Spectator 306 (February 16, 2008): 55-56.
Time 171, no. 7 (February 18, 2008): 60.
The Times Literary Supplement, February 15, 2008, pp. 23-24.
World Literature Today 82, no. 5 (September/October, 2008): 65-68.
(The entire section is 80 words.)