"True History of the Kelly Gang" by Peter Carey

Reviewed by Laura Miller

Published January 20, 2001 12:42AM (EST)

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In Laura Miller's review of Peter Carey's fictionalized account of the life of the murderer Ned Kelly, she seems to suggest with her reading of the story A) that it is true, and B) that his murders were justified by the perfidious English. I quote from her review: The book "serves as yet another reminder of why so many of the world's people hate the British."

As an Australian, I would just like to point out that the Ned Kelly episode had very little to do with the British or indeed Australia, and that all the players in the drama were Irish. The gang's members -- including Kelly, Byrne and Hart -- were all Irish; the policemen Kelly murdered -- Lonigan, Scanlon and Kennedy -- were all born in Ireland. The judge who sentenced Kelly, Barry, was also Irish.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Kelly came from a criminal family. His grandfather, father and himself were thieves and thugs preying on the Irish community, which made up the population of the area. His sister was a prostitute and his mother her pimp, as well as a seller of illegal alcohol. Let's not also forget in the attempt at historical whitewash that the Kellys were ardent racists, and that the first time Kelly was imprisoned it was for an unprovoked attack on a Chinese man.

To claim that he suffered unjustly and really only wanted to help his poor old mother and farm the land (as is claimed in the review) is ridiculous and facile. I must myself write a book on Ted Bundy and say how the poor man was driven to kill by the hardships imposed on him by the Americans. Though of course not all Americans fall for such nonsense. In Bill Bryson's latest travelogue on Australia, he recognized Kelly as he really was -- calling him "a murderous thug with not a shred of nobility."

-- Edgar Crook

By Salon Staff

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