A Long Way from Home

Peter Carey

A Long Way from Home
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A Long Way from Home

Peter Carey

Irene Bobs loves fast driving. Her husband is the best car salesman in western Victoria. Together they enter the Redex Trial, a brutal race around the ancient continent over roads no car will ever quite survive.

With them is their lanky fair-haired navigator, Willie Bachhuber, a quiz show champion and failed schoolteacher whose job it is to call out the turns, the grids, the creek crossings on a map that will finally remove them, without warning, from the lily-white Australia they know so well.

This thrilling, high-speed story starts in one way and then takes you someplace else. It is often funny, the more so as the world gets stranger, and always a page-turner, even as you learn a history these characters never knew themselves. Set in the 1950s amid the consequences of the age of empires, this brilliantly vivid and lively novel reminds us how Europeans took possession of a timeless culture - the high purpose they invented and the crimes they committed along the way.

Peter Carey has twice won the Booker Prize for his explorations of Australian history. A Long Way from Home is his late-style masterpiece.    


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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