In the early chapters of OSCAR & LUCINDA, Peter Carey traces the development of two appealing but obsessive personalities who meet each other and their doom in nineteenth century Australia. Like her mother, Lucinda Leplastrier is an ardent feminist, convinced that the liberation of women will come through the building of factories. When she inherits the family land, her immediate response is to sell it in order to buy a glass factory, which she promptly allows to fail. Meanwhile, in England, Oscar Hopkins has inherited a fanatical and irrational nature from his nonconformist father. Ordained an Anglican priest and then defrocked, Oscar feels led to sacrifice himself in Australia.
When he meets Lucinda, for the first time he feels cherished by a woman; deeply in love with him, Lucinda wants to make him happy by building a glass church to be transported overland to a distant settlement. Ironically, their innocent but loving relationship becomes a scandal; the overland trip with the glass church is soiled by cruelty and murder; and after being seduced at journey’s end by the great-grandmother of the narrator, the disillusioned Oscar welcomes death.
As in his earlier novels, BLISS and ILLYWHACKER, in OSCAR & LUCINDA Peter Carey demonstrates an unusual gift. Though his characters are extreme and his situations unlikely, he writes a convincing story, partly because of his meticulous use of detail, partly because his world is no more absurd than the present one, in which similar innocents so frequently are destroyed by their own dreams.
Sources for Further Study
The Christian Science Monitor. June 6, 1988, p. 6.
Kirkus Reviews. LVI, April 1, 1988, p. 472.
London Review of Books. X, April 21, 1988, p. 20.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. June 19, 1988, p. 2.
New Statesman. CXV, April 1, 1988, p. 28.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIII, May 29, 1988, p. 1.
The Observer. March 27, 1988, p. 42.
Publishers Weekly. CCXXXIII, April 29, 1988, p. 66.
Time. CXXXI, June 13, 1988, p. 75.
The Times Literary Supplement. April 1, 1988, p. 363.