Thursday, 21 May 2015

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey- Review by Carlyn

Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey is set in the 18th century in Australia and England. Oscar is a clergyman from England and Lucinda is an Australian heiress of a glass factory. Oscar is gangly, messy, awkward and spiritual. People find him to be eccentric and naïve. Lucinda is brash and dismissive of conventional norms. When the pair meets, they discover they both have a secret passion for gambling which is not becoming for a reverend and gentlewoman. Lucinda and Oscar make a bet which has a big impact on their lives.

I just finished reading Oscar and Lucinda today after starting the book last year. I would read a bit of it then not pick it up until months later. I think it is a good book but not compelling enough for me to binge read it. I thought the book was a long read, my book has 515 pages with small condensed writing. Peter Carey is quite descriptive but not too long winded. In some chapters, he would start off with the point of view from a secondary character which was something I liked as it gave a different perspective to the main characters.

In the beginning of the book, I was confused about the setting. I couldn't figure out if the events were happening in Australia or England. Lucinda and Oscar both live in the countryside as children and I didn't know whether Carey was describing Australia or England. Australia has land that can be described like an English countryside too. Australia was also a former colony of Britain and there are many Australian places named after British ones. I think at one point, Oscar goes to Melbourne to gamble or study and I didn't know whether it was Melbourne in Australia or elsewhere. It was only until Oscar and Lucinda board a boat from England to Sydney that I realized they were in England. I am dumb. I know that one day I will read this again and see how obvious the locations are and wonder how I could have missed it.

I found Oscar and Lucinda to be likeable as characters. I wish that the two were better at reading people and each other. They fall in love with each other but they are convinced the other doesn't feel the same way. If only they talked about it. There is a lot of pining in this book and it’s a shame that so much time is wasted on it.  

Another aspect I liked about the book was the exploration into Australia. It is set in colonial times and most of the land was still undiscovered by the colonists. I also see it as a sad time for Indigenous people for the loss of their land. Life was difficult for everyone for different reasons in the 18th century Australia. I also thought that for the new settlers in Australia, it was also a time of opportunity. In the book, there are a lot of people making their fortune in the new country.

 This book was adapted into a movie in 1997 staring Ralph Fiennes as Oscar and Cate Blanchett as Lucinda. The costume designer for the film won Best Costume Design at the 1998 Oscars. I want to see the movie some day as I think Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett make the perfect Oscar and Lucinda.

Overall, I thought Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey was a good book. It’s not one of my favourite books so I’m going to get rid of my copy. I have too many books that I cull any that I don’t absolutely love. 


  1. I've read a good bit of Oscar and Lucinda but I put the book down and haven't picked it up in so long that I would have to probably start from the beginning again. I seem to remember Oscar as having something of a strange if not strained relationship with his father and both Oscar and Lucinda coming from difficult family circumstances.

    I never got deep enough into the story to find out that Lucinda enjoyed gambling too, but remember that Oscar got hooked in during the horse races by a friend while he was at college (was it Oxford?).

    I remember the story shifting between their childhoods/ young adulthoods and right as I was really getting into one aspect of the story it would shift to the other perspective. I understand why an author does that but sometimes it doesn't sit well with me and it's one of the things that made me put the book down. I should like to finish it sometime though. I'm at the library today and if they have it perhaps I'll pick it up again. >.<

    1. I think starting again at the beginning would be best. It took me a long time to read Oscar and Lucinda too.
      Oscar and his father had a strained relationship because his dad was kinda a gruff shy man and the two had differing views about religion. His dad was very conservative and lots of things were considered sins like Christmas festivities.

      I think Lucinda's family was normal farming family. What she really had difficulty with was adjusting to being a proper young lady. When her parents died, the farm was sold and she became a rich woman. She really struggled with leading a genteel life.

  2. Your review is a good read for sure! It sounds like an interesting story. The part about both falling in love but being convinced the other party did not feel the same way must have been a bit frustrating...ha! I wish that part were pure fiction, but it happens. Sometimes it's hard to admit "like" for someone.

    1. Thanks Bethany. yes it is true that people hesitate too much in love.


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