“My name is Herbert Badgery.”

This week I did something that I haven’t done in years – I gave up on a book. I’m unfamiliar with Peter Carey’s work, but Illywhacker has been sat on my shelf for years, waiting for the right moment to be read. Maybe I chose the wrong moment after all, I don’t know, but I do know that when it’s taken me a week to read the first third of a book, something is wrong. Someone asked me this week, “Well, why are you continuing then?” and, frankly, I was struck by that. People have asked me before and I’ve always said that I’m too far in now, that it has some redeeming features, or it’s not very long, but this time, giving up seemed the only option. Thus, I present a review of the first third of Illywhacker.

Herbert Badgery is an Australian confidence trickster who has had a long and interesting life. We meet him as he begins to reminisce about that life, leaping into the time he was selling cars in Victoria, but had visions of being an aviator and bringing the first Australian-built aeroplanes to the world. Moving in with a kind family, he begins to get feelings for their young daughter, which are apparently reciprocated when she accosts him on the roof one day. The rest of the novel’s first part details their marriage, their passion for aviation, and what happened as they both got to know one another better. From then on, I can’t say.

I think my trouble stems from the books insistence in it being a “dazzling comic narrative” when, actually, it’s not all that funny. Oh sure, the situations are surreal and unusual, but that’s not the same thing. I need to stop being lured into books simply because they tell me that they’re funny. So often I end up disappointed or bemused. The writing itself is quite good, and there’s an interesting narrative path being taken, but it just didn’t captivate me enough to want to hang around for nearly six hundred pages.

The main character, Herbert Badgery, has one interesting trait – he’s telling this story towards the end of his life when he’s 139-years-old – and otherwise I found little about him that gripped me. Some of the characters around him, his wife Phoebe, and her former lover Annette, are quite interesting, but their stories are wrapped up in Badgery’s own, and only he and Carey seem to think his story is one worth telling.

Perhaps the novel gets better, I can’t say. Perhaps I would have fallen in love with the character as time went on, but I simply don’t have the will right now. I might return to the book one day, because I don’t like to leave things unfinished, but right now I need something that’s going to excite me a little more after a couple of sub-par books. Stylistically pretty good, but very much lacking in a coherent, engaging plot.

Hi everyone! Great news – my second novel, The Third Wheel, achieved its funding and will now be published in the near future! Thank you so much to everyone who supported. If you still want to support, or want to learn out more, click here!