This is a big book, and it’s taken me a long time to read it. As an aside, I often find that big books take a disproportionately long time to read because they’re bigger and heavier to carry around – obviously not a problem for a more modern electronic approach to reading but this was one I checked out of my local library.
I’ve just finished reading this book and after such a long time of reading I’m still not completely sure what I thought of it. Parts I really enjoyed and got swept up in, whilst others I felt bored and like I was skim reading for a few chapters before it caught my imagination again.
Interestingly this is another novel from the Booker list that covers the journey of emigration from England to Australia and the adventures and pitfalls that (see also The Luminaries) and is about people who don’t quite fit in with the norm and for various reasons are slight outcasts in the society.
The novel follows Oscar, the son of a Plymouth brethren priest, from his childhood on the south coast of England to adulthood as a student where he is introduced to and then justifies his gambling addiction as a means of funding his passage to Australia.
Lucinda is also introduced to the story as an odd child who loses her parents but inherits their fortunes. A strong and determined young woman she causes a stir with her desire to own and run her own business, unheard of and controversial in late 19th century Sydney.
Overall, this is a quirky story, with quirky off beat characters. It’s not a very easy read and drags on a fair bit in places, but for some escapism it’s a good read.
Some favourite quotes:
“He was a queer one alright, as you might expect of someone who did not hold with dancing”
About a particularly gaudily decorated room
“No one had thought, whilst they spent so extravagantly, that the brilliant settee might have to sit upon the brilliant carpet”
“Simply saying ‘with respect’ does not put it there”
“Lucinda thought: terrible things always happen on beautiful days. Nothing bad has ever happened to me on a rainy day”