If you are an Australian you would need to have lived your life in a cave not to know who Ned Kelly is. From a very early age children are taught about bushrangers in Australia and the most famous of those is Ned Kelly. I have just finished reading The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey. This isn’t really the true history but is the history as Peter Carey imagines it. As an Australian I am aware of the Jerilderie Letter and so the authenticity of this “true history” made it seem true even though it wasn’t. Each section gives a description of the paper the story was written on eg. pages of national bank letterhead paper, stained on the edges, stab holes near the top where they were one time bound. Carey has obviously based his story on the considerable amount of evidence available to researchers such as newspaper reports and police records, the suits of armour and of course the Jerilderie Letter.
According to Carey, Ned is brave but also kind and has only been led into a life of crime through the relentless hounding by the Victorian Police. The aspect of Ned that came through strongly in the story was his devotion to his mother. His mother seemed to provide the impetus for all that he did. This was a brilliantly told story in that Carey takes on the voice of the bushranger and you can feel that you are seeing history through his eyes. I certainly enjoyed the story as it is beautifully written. Carey won the Booker Prize, for the second time, with this novel in 2001. I have included it in my Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2014. I should also mention that the story of Ned Kelly has been made into a film several times. The most disastrous being the one where Mick Jagger started as Ned Kelly in 1970. Heath Ledger played the bushranger in the 2003 version. I finish with a Sydney Nolan artwork. His Ned Kelly series enjoys pride of place in our National Art Gallery.