A Long Way from Home

Peter Carey

A Long Way from Home
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A Long Way from Home

Peter Carey

Carey’s most ambitious novel since True History of the Kelly Gang - a celebration and interrogation of the Australia of Peter’s childhood. He takes us on a wild ride around the country in 1954 by way of the famous Redex car trial, during which our protagonist, Willy Bachhuber, learns the poignant truth of his troubled past. It’s a tender and wonderfully wry, portrait of Australia in the 1950s, reminiscent of Illywhacker in concerns and some characters.

We’re in Bacchus Marsh in the 1950s, with car salesmen, an early aviator, and the lives of Irene Bobs and Willy Bachhuber, the narrators of this addictive tale. The striking Irene is ahead of her time, a fearless, big-hearted, independently minded woman. Her next door neighbour Willy seems to be constantly in flight from his own life. He lacks social confidence but is extremely well read, so much so that he’s a radio quiz champ. And he has a particular fondness for maps. When Irene’s husband Titch decides to enter the Redex trial, Irene goes with him as co-driver, and Willy as navigator.

A fantastically fun and funny read, Peter’s new novel is a major achievement.

Review

One of my favourite books is Peter Carey’s Illywhacker, with its outrageous narrator Herbert Badgery and the sprawling basalt plains of Bacchus Marsh. It was a riot of fun that hid a message about this country of ours, for us and the world to see. A Long Way From Home returns to Bacchus Marsh with the joy, exuberance and absurdity of Illywhacker – but with a lot more, besides.

Suspended schoolteacher (‘chalk and talker’) and quiz-show king, Willie Bachuber, is smitten when the diminutive yet perfect couple, Mr and Mrs Titch Bobbs, move in next-door with their children and an assortment of motor vehicles. Titch has one desire – to own the Ford franchise for Bacchus Marsh – but Mrs Bobs knows the future is with Holden (ironic given Holden has no future now); she swings the deal and what better way to launch the new venture than by entering the famous round-Australia endurance race, the Redex Trial. Mr and Mrs Bobs will be the drivers. ‘Driving a car is all in the bum and Mrs Bobs’ bum is a perfect instrument for the job.’ But she can’t be the navigator – Willie can. And so this odd group embarks on a wild ride around the country, where they encounter, among other things, Willie’s past and Australia’s future.

It’s hard not to be drawn into this amazing book, with Carey’s use of language and vernacular shining through the pages. As Molly Meldrum famously said: do yourself a favour …


Mark Rubbo is the managing director of Readings.

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